Spirometrix raises $8.6M to develop nitric oxide asthma sensor

By Jonah Comstock
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spirometrixPleasanton, California-based Spirometrix, a company working on a breath analysis sensor for early detection and treatment of asthma and COPD, has raised $8.6 million in second round funding. The round was led by NGK Spark Plugs, a Japanese company  that manufactures spark plugs and oxygen sensors, which contributed $5 million. Existing investor Simul Investments also contributed. The raise brings the company's total funding to $12 million.

Spirometrix's device, which is still under development and not yet FDA-cleared, measures nitric oxide in the breath as a biomarker of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The Fenom sensor system will work similarly to a spirometer -- the user will exhale into the device for 10 seconds and get results returned in a minute. But the test has a high sensitivity -- it can detect NO in 5 parts per billion.

The sensor device will also include standard sensors like a peak flow meter, GPS, and an environmental sensor for pollen counts. It will be used both as an initial diagnostic test for asthma and to predict episodes in people with existing respiratory conditions. The company says data will be transmitted to patients and physicians via the cloud. 

NGK will serve as a strategic partner as well as an investor, manufacturing the nitric oxide sensors Spirometrix's technology is based on. NGK CEO Shinichi Odo says the partnership is a stepping stone into the medical device manufacturing world for the company.

“We are excited to have NTK as an investor, strategic partner, and member of our board of directors, given NTK’s commitment to high-quality sensor design and manufacturing,” J. Dean Zikria, CEO of Spirometrix, said in a statement. “This is a significant step in our strategy of creating a unique offering in the asthma space that includes sensors as well as a digital ecosystem allowing for insights leading to better clinical decision support.”

Zikria, who became CEO in March, is a former executive at McKesson, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson. Spirometrix also lists two scientific advisors on its website: Ohio State University chemist Prabir K. Dutta and Dr. Eric Topol, the chief academic officer at Scripps Health and a well known figure in the digital health world.

Several other companies working on connected respiratory devices and similar technology are close to launching. MySpiroo, a Polish company, has developed a smartphone-connected peak flow meter that plugs into the phone’s headphone jack. They have completed a prototype and plan to launch  soon. In addition, a Greek company called Respi, a member of DreamIt Health’s latest accelerator class, is also building a smartphone spirometer. And Breathometer, the smartphone-connected breathalyzer device that has backing from Mark Cuban, could potentially move into that space as well.