A micropump technology from UK company TTP Ventus is powering a new wearable sleep apnea product developed by San Diego-based start-up Sommetrics. The device is currently approved for marketing to patients in Canada and is expected to receive CE-mark approval in Q4 2018. TTP's pump know-how is also being applied to IVD technologies, including a breathalyzer and microfluidic-based diagnostic devices.
A micropump technology developed by Cambridge, UK-based TTP Ventus is powering a new sleep apnea treatment developed by US start-up Sommetrics.
TTP Ventus, a spin-out from science and engineering firm TTP Group plc, partnered with Sommetrics to use its micropump technology, Disc Pump, with the company's negative-pressure system for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The ultra-slim micropump is designed to be silent and operate at ultrasonic frequencies, cycling 21,000 times per second. Each short cycle moves a tiny quantity of air – around 100 nanolitres – less than the volume of a pinhead.
At present, the leading conventional treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which requires users to wear a face mask connected via a hose to a large bedside pump unit. Although the treatment is effective, it can cause discomfort and be disruptive to a user's movement during sleep.
Sommetrics' new wearable treatment aerSleep applies negative external air pressure to the outside of the neck by means of a soft collar, which pulls forward tissue in the throat and opens the airway to enable the wearer to breathe freely. It is currently approved for marketing to patients in Canada and the company expects CE-mark approval in Q4 2018.
TTP Ventus said its micropump was critical to the functionality of the product. "The headline features of our pump – the small size, the light weight, the millisecond response time, the smooth output and precise controllability made it a perfect fit for Sommetrics product," Tom Harrison, the firm's business development manager, told Medtech Insight. "A pump for this application critically needs to be silent and vibration free otherwise you're going to wake the patient up. It also needs to be small and lightweight otherwise you couldn't build it into something wearable that can be battery-powered – so this partnership was a perfect marriage of our pump technology and their application requirement."
Other Medtech Applications
Wearables are just one area of medical devices TTP Ventus is focused on. The company is also expanding the use of its pump technology know-how in gas sampling and sensing applications, and is working with Owlstone Medical Ltd. , also based in Cambridge, to develop its breathalyzer for detecting disease biomarkers in breath. (Also see "From Military To Medicine, Owlstone Medical Targets Lung Cancer With Its Breath Analysis Tech" - Medtech Insight, 3 Oct, 2016.)
"Owlstone is using our technology with their breath biopsy to measure disease in breath and, more specifically, to measure a very precise part of breath," Harrison said. "For Owlstone, the value of the pump lies in that it can turn on and off in a millisecond, and normally a pump is driven by a motor, which takes time to speed up and then slow down when you turn it off."
Microfluidics is another area of focus, where TTP Ventus believes its micropump could be beneficial for point-of-care (POC) diagnostic systems that rely on smooth liquid flow for sensitive measurements. "What we've realized is, you can use the air pressure the pump generates to basically push fluid through a system. So, for example, you can push a blood sample into a diagnostic system that is intended to take measurement of blood. The challenge is that all the systems that currently do this are a kilogram and weigh the size of a house brick. Our pump is an interesting solution for that problem," said Harrison.
"We realized that we can use our pump with its inherently smooth output to do the same thing, but in the form factor of a handheld device," he added. "We think this could be really useful for handheld POC instruments where you have the need to take relatively quick diagnostic tests by the patient's bedside and it's critical that you can do it quickly."
In 2018, TTP Ventus aims to line up more partnerships with medical device companies. "We are actively looking for new product opportunities that could get specific benefit from the rather unusual features of the pump," said Harrison, adding that TTP is open to discussing even very early-stage concepts and helping companies work through product development. "We're also interested in applications that are less revolutionary, where the pump might drop in as a replacement of a traditional pump and make an incremental but valuable change to how an application works."
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From the editors of Clinica