Respinor climbs to the top in Europe and receives NOK 26 million from EU’s Horizon2020 programme, which supports innovative small and medium-sized enterprises in the healthcare biotechnology sector. Respinor has developed an ultrasound-based sensor called DiaMon that is used to monitor diaphragm movement in patients connected to a ventilator, or breathing machine.
The Horizon2020 programme received a total of 237 applications, only six of which received support. The Norwegian company Respinor was ranked as number one. The company will use the EU funds to finance a Phase II clinical trial for DiaMon. It will take place in France, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway.
‘It’s incredibly pleasing to go all the way to the top among so many applicants from all over Europe. I think it’s because we are addressing a genuine medical need and have a solution that can result in huge savings for society. The 26 million will be spent in their entirety on financing a large clinical trial in 2018, in which DiaMon will be tested on 600 patients on ventilators,’ explains general manager Nicolay Berard-Andersen.
DiaMon is a medical-technical sensor that is attached to the diaphragm of patients connected to a ventilator, i.e. patients whose breathing is assisted by mechanical ventilation. Because the diaphragm is the main muscle that helps us to perform the vital act of breathing, it is crucial to know what happens to the diaphragm when people need help breathing. This is currently not being done.
‘Patients in intensive care who need help breathing are supposed to gradually be weaned off the ventilator. Knowing when a patient should be taken off the ventilator, in other words when to discontinue the mechanical assistance, is a critical process in which our product can contribute vital information,’ says Berard-Andersen.
It costs about NOK 13,500 a day to keep a patient on a ventilator. With DiaMon, the doctors providing treatment will receive information about whether the patient is capable of breathing by themselves, and whether they can weaned off the ventilator sooner.
‘Being helped to breathe by a ventilator is essential when a patient is not breathing. It is nonetheless associated with a risk of damage to the lungs, pneumonia and weakening of the muscles, so that the patient gradually stops being able to breathe by themselves. It is therefore a goal to keep patients on a ventilator for as short a period as possible. By monitoring the diaphragm, the doctor can get information about when the patient is capable of breathing by themselves,’ says Berard-Andersen.
Gaining recognition and raising funds
The EU award of NOK 26 million is the latest on a long list of good news that Respinor has received in the past six months. In autumn 2016, the company was granted seed capital by Inven2, which was matched by own capital, resulting in a total of NOK 6.5 million. In December 2016, they received a grant of NOK 7.4 million from the Research Council of Norway’s FORNY programme to further develop the prototype for DiaMon with a view to gaining CE approval, which all medical-technical products are required to have. The company is also well under way with its first clinical trial, which is being carried out in the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål.
‘In addition, we have previously received support under the EU’s EUROSTARS programme. What is special about this most recent award of NOK 26 million is that it does not have to be matched by private capital, because the funds will be spent on clinical trials,’ says Berard-Andersen.
Berard-Andersen is convinced that good colleagues and help from Oslo Medtech in particular with writing the EU application have been decisive in getting the company as far as it has in the two years it has existed.
‘Our initial focus now is on developing this product for use on mechanically ventilated patients. Our long-term goal is to expand the use of DiaMon. We believe that our product can be a positive contribution for people suffering from COPD and sleep apnoea, where respiratory failure is part of the illness,’ says Berard-Andersen.