design team | Charvi Shetty / Huyson Lam / Inderjit Jutla
Spirometers measure airflow in and out of the lungs. Charvi Shetty, who has a B.S. in bioengineering from Berkeley and an M.S. in biomedical imaging from UCSF, says they’re indispensable for an asthma diagnosis but can be quite expensive: desktop models in pediatricians’ offices can cost $2,000 or more. Shetty is founder and CEO of KNOX Medical Diagnostics, which soon plans to introduce a spirometer-based monitoring device for around $100. The idea was hatched in bioengineering professor Amy Herr’s capstone design class and immediately produced a sensing device with a mobile app for data analysis that provides feedback asthmatics can put to immediate use. The original plan included a nitrogen oxide (NOx) sensor, thus the name KNOX — now something of an inside joke, since “nitrogen oxide as an asthma biomarker hasn’t been validated in the U.S.,” Shetty says, and isn’t part of the final design.
$60,000 from UCSF to fund clinical trials starting in June 2015.
Making the device was straightforward; understanding the market wasn’t. In Herr’s course and a follow-up course at UCSF, Shetty and her colleagues interviewed over 200 patients, clinicians and insurance executives. To their surprise, major insurance companies regarded potential savings as too trivial. Supported by the Foundry@CITRIS and Founder.org, KNOX decided to go directly to consumers, targeting not just severe asthmatics but all those, even with milder symptoms, who can benefit from the device.