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Lungpacer expands into new location

December 14, 2014
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SFU spinout Lungpacer Medical Inc. welcomed nearly 100 guests on Dec. 11 to its new 6,500-sq.-ft. Burnaby premises, which are 3 1/2 times larger than the SFU Neurokinesiology Laboratory location where the company originated.

Since its establishment in 2009, Lungpacer has grown from seven engineers and six students to 25 employees—including 11 SFU grads and interns—led by an impressive international management team. Along the way, the company has garnered seven industry awards, eight government grants and several key patents.

 “This new location is exactly what we need to take the company to the next level,” says company founder Andy Hoffer. The SFU biomedical physiology and kinesiology professor is a world-leading expert on implantable neural interfaces and the inventor of Lungpacer’s transvascular nerve-stimulation electrode.

Lungpacer electrodes will be intravenously placed in patients on mechanical ventilators to rhythmically activate their diaphragms and prevent muscle-disuse atrophy. Diaphragm pacing is expected to result in faster patient recovery, shorter stays in intensive care, lower hospitalization costs and greater patient access to scarce mechanical ventilators during flu outbreaks. It should also reduce the secondary infections and irreversible lung damage commonly related to ventilator use.

Currently, more than 30 per cent of patients cannot wean from the ventilator and die in hospital, which is what happened to Hoffer’s mother following weeks on a ventilator in his native Uruguay, inspiring him to create the Lungpacer.

The company has completed a key series pre-clinical studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of its therapeutic medical device and is getting ready to carry out pilot human clinical trials in 2016.

“We are building a vital collaboration with Fraser Health and particularly Dr. Steve Reynolds, program medical director and regional department head of critical care at Fraser Health,  who along with his respiratory technologists from Royal Columbian Hospital did an extraordinary job with our pre-clinical studies,” says Hoffer.

Reynolds will also be in charge of the pilot human clinical trials, which will lead to multi-centre pivotal trials. Regulatory approvals of the Lungpacer system are expected to begin in 2018 for commercial use in Canada, Europe and the U.S..

The new Lungpacer facility features:

  • A quality-control lab and controlled inventory storage facility.
  • A clean room, which is a highly specialized controlled environment where engineers and technicians will fabricate the catheters to be used during clinical trials.
  • A catheter R&D lab where scientists and engineers will test the performance of devices.
  • A fume hood ventilation system.
  • A temperature- and humidity-controlled environmental chamber for accelerated aging studies.
  • A negative-pressure decontamination room with HEPA filtration system for testing potentially bio-hazardous catheter samples removed after patient use.
  • An electrical lab with electro-static dissipative flooring for building and testing circuit boards.
  • Administrative offices and meeting rooms.
  • A warehouse and a basic machine shop.

Hoffer credits SFU’s VP Research office and particularly the expertise and support from the SFU Innovation Officeand VentureLabs® program for enabling the company’s success.  

“The SFU Innovation Office provided critical technology assessment, market research and intellectual property services and assisted with prototype development, which were essential in helping us obtain key grants from theNatural Science and Engineering Research Council, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“Their services were invaluable in Lungpacer raising the grants, government assistance and venture capital investment needed to launch and develop our business to where it is today.”

 In January 2014, Lungpacer raised several million dollars in a private investment round with lead investors Doug Evans and John Nash, who had recently sold their successful medical device development company Kensey-Nash. Both are now integral members of the Lungpacer team, serving as CEO and special technical advisor, respectively.

 View a video of Andy Hoffer discussing Lungpacer here.