An Israeli company developing a wrist-worn oximeter was chosen by GE Healthcare’s Start-Up Health Academy Entrepreneurship Program.
By Rivka Borochov
A physicist from Israel has developed the world’s first “watch,” the Oxitone, which can give advanced notice of an impending heart attack.
About half of all people who die from heart attacks could be saved if there were a witness nearby, says Oxitone inventor Leon Eisen. His watch will be that witness.
So promising is this technology that Oxitone was picked from 400 applicants to join 12 other companies this year as part of GE Healthcare’s three-year Start-Up Health Academy Entrepreneurship Program in the United States.
Oxitone was the only foreign company selected for the program, meant to provide mentorship and biotech “jet fuel” to the selected companies. GE expects to take an equity share in the Israeli company if it succeeds.
Eisen has a PhD in physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and a passion for engineering and optical lasers. He is originally from Moscow and immigrated to Israel in 1999. What he has developed is a real-time monitoring device for heart patients to be worn at home, at play, at work, even while asleep.
For patients with COPD
Pulse oximetry is the medical expression for measuring hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen to cells in the body. Declining hemoglobin levels might indicate a life-threatening situation.
Oxitone keeps a “watch” on blood-oxygen levels, on a minute-by-minute basis, using two special optical lasers built into an oximeter that sits on the wrist. A working prototype is now ready.
For people who are suffering from any type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), for instance, making sure they get enough air into the lungs and key organs is key for survival, says Eisen, who works with medical doctors in developing the device.
COPD accompanies a number of health ailments including chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema and it can lead to a shortness of breath. Today COPD is among the top three ways people die in the United States.
Takes the pinch out
People may be aware they are suffering from the symptoms of COPD, but an ensuing weakness due to low oxygen levels may prevent them from getting the help they may need.
Currently the best way for monitoring COPD is a monitor with an alligator clip that takes readings from the fingertip. Though non-invasive, the clip pinches and cannot provide continual monitoring and freedom of movement.
“Today people use the clip or are expected to push a button on their monitor. ‘Where did I put my monitor? I can’t find it.’ This is a chronic problem,” says Eisen, 46.
Instead of relying on the patient to self-report vital signs, the Oxitone does it automatically even before a person might notice something is going wrong.
Watch while you are sleeping
Connected online and to the cloud, and paired with devices such as smartphones or tablets, Oxitone can send real-time alerts and data to pre-programmed locations such as emergency services, loved ones and doctors.
The device is expected to cost about $200, with additional subscription fees depending on the service levels sought.
In the future, Oxitone might be applied to monitor the dangerous effects of sleep apnea or to follow people at risk for asthma attacks or seizures. Getting adequate oxygen during attacks is critical.
An additional benefit for healthcare providers is that the device spits out data 24/7 –– information that can help them monitor a patient’s progress over time, especially during critical periods, such as before or after an operation when the person is at home.
Eisen’s tool is financed by the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israel, self-funding and angel investors. He currently seeks $3 million to develop the prototype into a product ready for sales. Early-stage clinical trials have been done on the device, and longer-term clinical trials are beginning in Israel and the UK.
Oxitone was founded in 2010 and was based in Ashkelon, Israel, inside the ATI incubator.