Lungpacer Medical Inc., the SFU spin-off company that took third prize in the 2009 New Ventures BC competition, is gearing up for first-in-human feasibility trials of its therapeutic technology.

Lungpacer addresses significant issues associated with critically ill patients at risk of becoming dependent on mechanical ventilation. The technology includes proprietary intravenous electrodes that rhythmically activate the diaphragm muscle. This activation, or pacing, prevents the muscle from rapidly atrophying and speeds up the patient’s weaning from the ventilator.

Founder and SFU professor Andy Hoffer says that the LungpacerTM therapy will improve patients’ recovery times, reduce their stay in intensive care, and improve their health outcomes. It will also significantly lower hospitalization costs.

“If we save even one day of a U.S. patient’s time in the intensive care unit, that’s a $6,500 saving to their health care system,” he says, “and Lungpacer could help 400,000 U.S. patients/year who have difficulties weaning.”

As well, he adds, “Faster weaning from ventilators will give more patients access to these scarce devices, particularly during major emergencies such as flu pandemics.”

Since participating in the NVBC competition, Lungpacer has raised $245,000 in private financing from family and friends and $285,000 in contributions from the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. As well, the prototype development received a Phase IIB $348,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

“We’ve proven 21-day safety and stability of Lungpacer prototype devices and we’re preparing for first clinical trials in patients in 2012,” says Hoffer.

Lungpacer Medical Inc. is presently seeking $1.75 million in seed financing for this next step.

In July, Lungpacer, which has five employees and several consultants, announced David Christie as its new president and chief operating officer. Christie has 23 years of experience as an executive leader in medical device companies and has introduced many new products to market.

Lungpacer’s other awards include the 2009 Emerging Technology Award from the BC Innovation Council and the 2010 LifeSciences BC Innovation and Achievement Award.

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