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Saving lives from a smartphone
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Saving lives from a smartphone 

The mobile health technology is becoming a reality through the University of British Columbia and its spinoff company LionsGate Technologies (LGTmedical). UBC scientists developed the technology, and now LGTmedical is developing and commercializing the subsequent products.

The company recently announced $2 million in public-private funding for one of its products, the Phone Oximeter. The device consists of a sensor and an app that reads blood oxygen levels. According to LGTmedical, it can be used to save the lives of women and children in low-resource countries.

Using a medical sensor that attaches to your fingertip, the app can identify life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure. It can identify conditions such as pre-eclampsia, one of the three leading causes of maternal mortality, or dangerously low oxygen levels in patients with pneumonia. 

The sensor can be plugged into smartphones, tablets, and laptops, through the headphone jack.

The mobile health innovation has had broad reaching implications for revolutionizing the medical world, and providing universal access to medical monitoring. The app-sensor combination turns any community-level healthcare worker’s smartphone, tablet or laptop into a simple and affordable, yet still sophisticated medical-grade tool.

LGTmedical received $1 million in funding from Grand Challenges Canada, and a $1 million angel investment led by Vancouver-based Coleco Investments for the device. The company is hoping that with the $2 million combined funding, the Phone Oximeter will be rolled out to prevent the death of thousands and improve the health of expectant mothers, newborns and children throughout the developing world.  

“This life-saving device is the ‘double-double’ of global health – it leverages both the global ubiquity of mobile phones and the know-how and financial resources of the private sector,” said Dr. Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “We hope this innovation will move swiftly from its invention in a Vancouver lab to villages around the globe, creating jobs in Canada while saving lives around the world.”

While the technology is being used mainly for healthcare providers, the company hopes it will extend in the future to every home. 

“This is a critical step in achieving our goal of having a pulse oximeter in every home,” said Dr. Mark Ansermino, co-founder of the technology. His co-creator, Dr. Guy Dumont, added: “Through innovative engineering, we have been able to tap into the computing power of smartphones to produce medical-grade, low-cost monitoring systems amenable to widespread usage in low- and medium-resource countries.”

Developers are also testing the device for other applications. This includes monitoring blood-oxygen levels of athletes in training, or for monitoring mountain climbers for signs of altitude sickness.

LGTmedical is focused on product and channel development, with an aim to achieve the most scalable, profitable and clinically impactful solutions. According to the company’s website, while not available yet for commercial sale, the company is targeting launching in the consumer and clinical markets in 2014.

 

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