Devices: Portable spirometer
Charvi Shetty’s (B.S.’12 BioE, M.S. ’13 UCSF biomedical imaging) efforts to build a better asthma monitoring tool recently became personal. While serving as control group during prototype testing of a new device that originated in bioengineering professor Amy Herr’s senior capstone course, her test results showed that, like millions of Americans, she too has asthma. “I’d had some problems with respiration growing up, but thought it was just normal,“ she says.
Shetty is CEO and co-founder of KNOX Medical Diagnostics, a company specializing in cloud-connected personalized care for asthmatics. Alumni Huyson Lam (B.S.’12 EECS) and Inderjit Jutla (B.S.’14 EECS/MSE) are also on the KNOX team; they too had asthma as children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 12 — or about 25 million — people in the U.S. have asthma. The condition constricts breathing and can lead to life-threatening respiratory distress. Asthma disproportionately affects children: 7.1 million asthmatics are under 18, and it’s the third leading cause of hospitalizations for the 15-and-under age group. In 2008, asthma was responsible for 14.4 million lost school days and cost approximately $56 billion dollars in medical costs and lost productivity.
Asthma patients typically use self-administered peak flow meters — simple tubes to capture exhaled respiration volume, which often lead to faulty or inaccurate reporting — or a desktop spirometer, which more accurately measures breathing but requires a trip to a medical clinic.
Shetty and KNOX are developing a handheld device that accurately measures respiration and reports lung capacity, peak expiratory flow and flow volume loops, via the cloud by way of a mobile app, allowing physicians, parents and patients to keep tabs on frequent, reliable results. The team is developing the technology specifically for pediatric asthma patients, because that demographic has the greatest number of hospitalizations and because children have more difficulty accurately reporting symptoms.
While still in the R&D phase, the team is supported by Berkeley’s Foundry@CITRIS. Shetty is also collaborating with UCSF pulmonologists to create a measurement system and a method of standardized data reporting that will be accepted throughout the medical community.
The kind of highly accurate desktop spirometer that is commonly used to diagnose asthma can cost thousands of dollars. The KNOX team hopes that the initial price tag on their device will be around $100, or lower when mass produced.