media release

Lungpacer receives tech industry award

June 28, 2012

Andy Hoffer, 778.782.3141;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017;

Simon Fraser University Professor
 Andy Hoffer’s spin-off company, Lungpacer Medical Inc., has won the BC Technology Industry Association’s 2012 award for the Most Promising Pre-Commercial Technology.

It is the fledgling company’s fifth award. Lungpacer is now getting ready for the first-in-human trials of its therapeutic medical device, intended to keep the diaphragm muscle working while critically ill patients are on mechanical ventilators.

The novel device, which uses an intravenous catheter electrode to “pace” the diaphragm, is expected to offer significant health and cost benefits. Its purpose is to prevent diaphragm-muscle atrophy, enabling more patients to wean from the ventilator.

Currently, 25-30 per cent of patients cannot wean from the ventilator and die in hospital. Diaphragm pacing should also reduce the secondary infections and irreversible lung damage commonly related to using the ventilator.

“I believe we’re recognized for a novel therapy that addresses a growing clinical need for which there is no other solution,” says Hoffer, a biomedical physiology and kinesiology professor, “and also for our strong business case, because the cost of care for these patients is so high. We aim to both save lives and save money.”

Hoffer has spent much of his 40-year research career developing ways to use electrical stimulation to activate paralysed muscles. He came up with Lungpacer while sitting beside his 82-year-old mother’s intensive-care hospital bed for five weeks in Uruguay.

She had pneumonia and was placed on a mechanical ventilator, but never regained adequate lung function. She died three months later.

Lungpacer is headquartered in SFU’s Neurokinesiology Lab and employs seven engineers and six students.

Hoffer founded the company jointly with SFU and has raised nearly $1 million in federal support and more than $600,000 in private investment from 25 friends, including several SFU faculty and staff members.

“The role of SFU and the Innovation Office has been crucial for Lungpacer,” says Hoffer. “The IO has paid for all patent costs and provided initial prototype development funds that helped us obtain larger grants from the National Science and Engineering Research Council.”

If the patient trials go well, Hoffer expects to bring Lungpacer to market in 2015 in Canada and Europe, then in the U.S.


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