Sunday, January 29, 2012

Developing Low Cost Tech

The biomedical device startup Praxis Biosciences LLC is the fifth company to move into the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) technology business incubator called TechPortal. The firm founded in 2010, has been developing low-cost technologies aimed at the medical industry.

Their sinus-screening tool uses near-infrared light to illuminate patient’s sinus cavities when signs of blockage are indicated. The tool is intended for use in primary care settings and will be tested for efficacy alongside CT scans, which is the current and more expensive tool used for sinus scans

The sinus screening tool uses a light wand type device placed inside the patient’s mouth that emits near infrared light which is not absorbed by tissue. Instead, it scatters and lights up the whole face. “However, if you have blocked sinus cavities, the shape of the light pattern differs. A digital camera outfitted with special filters captures the images, which can’t be seen with the naked eye, and then automatically uploads the images wirelessly,” reports Chief Technology Officer Joan You.

Praxis is collaborating on this tool with researchers Bruce Tromberg and Albert Cerussi at the University of California at Irvine’s Beckman Laser Institute. Along with developing the light-wand device, Praxis plans to work on organizing and managing the data for seamless integration into patient care databases.

The company has already developed a cartilage-reshaping instrument that molds cartilage in the ears using electrical stimulation that can be used in a medical office setting. So far the instrument is in the early stages of development. Currently, the device is focused on ear reshaping to correct trauma or genetic defects, but the technology can also be adapted for other procedures such as rhinoplasty.

By using electric current to reshape the tissue, doctors would be able to perform their work incrementally while eliminating the need for costly surgical procedures. The process is relatively painless and a topical anesthetic can eliminate the discomfort entirely.

In other Praxis research, the “EarTrumpet” could be the answer for some of the approximately 36 million people in the U.S. who need hearing assistance but can’t afford expensive hearing aids. The iPhone, iPad, and iPod app features a self administered hearing test to identify user specific frequencies that require amplification, and then is able to deliver a personalized hearing aid program. The app is already available but Praxis seeks to refine it to the level of a medical device. The current device is being upgraded to include more testing options and better amplification capabilities.

“In addition to their collaborations with researchers at the Beckman Laser Institute, Praxis Biosciences seeks additional partnerships with Calit2-affiliated faculty in the areas of telemedicine, medical informatics, and micro-devices,” said CTO Joan You who also serves as the company’s business affairs officer.

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