Tech Trailblazers : Respiree
03 Sep 2020
It is not easy being an entrepreneur, and few are willing to take that first step plunging into the uncertainties of starting their own company. For many scientists, nothing is more satisfying than seeing their research go from bench to bedside. In this series, we speak with various start-up founders and explore their entrepreneurial journey with A*STAR’s commercialisation arm, A*ccelerate, and discover how, with dedication and a little bit of luck, they are able to turn their innovations into exciting businesses that impact lives.
Gurpreet Singh, Founder Respiree
An A*STAR spin-off, this medical device company focuses on solutions to monitor and predict changes in the clinical status of cardio-respiratory patients. Their products include cardio-respiratory sensors and network-based software that aggregates data from multiple sensors on patients, analyses them, and sends feedback insights to clinical dashboards to ease the workflow of healthcare workers.
Founded in 2019, Respiree’s technology is based on core sensor technology developed at the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), at A*STAR. With support from A*ccelerate and A*STAR’s multi-disciplinary research institutes, Respiree’s hardware-based platform now incorporates software-based predictive analytics that taps on artificial intelligence and machine-learning methods.
Gurpreet Singh, Founder of Respiree and A*STAR scholar, shares how he turned a discovery in the lab into a device that could potentially save lives.
What were your motivations for starting Respiree?
Currently, respiratory monitoring in hospitals are largely conducted in a very rudimentary way. If one were to visit the general wards, the only vital sign measured manually is the patient’s respiratory rate. Interestingly, multiple clinical reports have shown that one of the earliest indicators of a change in clinical status is a change in the respiratory rate, as compared to other signals such as oxygen saturation and blood pressure rates. Thus, our original motivation was to create Respiree to automate the process of respiratory rate measurement. This will provide clinicians with more objective measures to predict clinical deterioration. We have since developed our sensing platform technology to include new network based approaches that allow for simple and easy-to-use solutions without the use of mobile applications.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when setting up your company?
Our key challenges include having to gain traction quickly in terms of proving efficacy of the product via publications, and securing required pre-market approvals to initiate commercialisation. At the same time, it is important to maintain quality and required clinical evidence that require longer timeline commitments. We are grateful for the support we have received from the local R&D and healthcare ecosystem including A*STAR, the Changi General Hospital, National University Hospital (NUH), National University Singapore (NUS), and the Institute of Mental Health. Currently, Respiree and NUH, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine are collaborating on a research study to develop predictive models using respiratory rate and breathing variability, to detect clinical deterioration in patients suffering from acute respiratory failure and pneumonia early and accurately. The aim is to deploy the use of novel respiratory biomarkers to predict worsening conditions in isolated COVID-19 patients.
How did A*ccelerate / A*STAR help you navigate your challenges?
A*ccelerate has been a key supporter of Respiree from the times when the core technology was conceived in the Laboratory of Bio-optical Imaging at SBIC. This includes the development of the Gap project proposal which successfully received funding for technology development, the licensing of the resultant technology and ultimately the spin-off of Respiree. In addition to assist in financing the development of Respiree, the members of A*ccelerate have played a critical role in supporting fund raising through introduction of suitable investors, regulatory advice and mentorship in the development and commercialisation of Respiree.
What are some of Respiree’s milestones that you are proudest of?
Now that we have secured our Health Sciences Authority approvals for use of Respiree as a medical device in Singapore, we will be able to bring our products to patients in the market. This is a significant milestone for us. We have also gained good use-cases with the local hospitals that have provided us opportunities to pilot, deploy and further improve Respiree.
What’s next for your company?
Securing our Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) approvals. We are also looking towards partnerships with commercial stakeholders to enhance Respiree’s portfolio of products,especially in artificial intelligence systems for the healthcare segment.