Our journey started at the University of Pittsburgh and ultimately would grow into Respair, Inc. With a mission dedicated to improving patient care for those most vulnerable, we sought to reduce complications related to ventilator therapy in the critical care environment, but that isn't exactly how we started...
Customer Discovery: What's the problem?
In early 2020 founder Dr. Carl Snyderman, head and neck surgeon at UPMC for over 40 years, was exploring the intubation space because, as a surgeon, he was frustrated by how the breathing tubes would migrate in patients. So he recruited the help of Dr. Garrett Coyan, a cardiothoracic surgeon with other entrepreneurial endeavors to examine this problem further. Together, they enrolled in Pitt's First Gear program, an NSF-Icorps program hosted at Pitt, dedicated to customer discovery, validating a need, and ensuring product-market fit. Through this program, they quickly learned that while migration was a problem, it wasn't THE problem. Instead, they discovered that the scourge of this environment is Ventilator-Associated Events (VAEs), specifically Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP).
Interested in learning more about First Gear? Check out Pitt's Innovation Institute to learn more
The Problem: Breaking the Seal
Endotracheal tubes (ETTs) or breathing tubes use an inflatable balloon cuff to create a seal in the airway. The inflatable balloon is a failure point on ETTs that can deflate, wrinkle, or tear during use. Each failure point breaks the protective airway seal allowing deadly aspirated bacteria fluid to enter the lungs. The sealing mechanism of inflatable balloons hasn't been meaningfully changed in over 40 years.
Ventilator-associated events are used to describe adverse complications that result from ventilator usage. These include damage to the airway and infection that may be acquired while on a ventilator. Our team focuses on infections related to VAEs caused by microaspirations that allow bacteria to enter the lungs, causing deadly and costly complications. Pre-Covid, VAP afflicted nearly 300,000 patients intubated for longer than 48hrs. It carries a mortality rate of 30-50% and costs hospitals up to $40K per episode, an estimated $4-6B cost burden annually in the United States.
The Solution: RelianceET
After honing in on the problem of VAEs and VAP, our team set to task doing two things: first, conducting additional interviews with key purchasing and clinical stakeholders, and second, creating low-fidelity prototypes to validate our proposed solution. We conducted over 60+ interviews with these experts, which led us to create the solution pictured on the left.
baffles act like a stopper during
placement, transport, and removal
No inflatable cuff
less monitoring, fewer failure points, and more clinical time saved
Standard sizes, materials, and properties of currently used tubes
Disclaimer: This device has not been evaluated or cleared for sale in the United States by the FDA
Telling the Story
As our team continued to refine our prototype, we also refined our storytelling and business plan. It's one thing to think you've got a great idea and another thing to convince a discerning audience that you do. Our team applied to 3 different funding competitions and 1 life science accelerator. Our efforts yielded a resounding yes, and the results were a robust business platform, professional networks, and $150K in awards for our project.
Interested in learning more about these programs? Click on their logos to learn more!
Watch our winning pitch from PInCh 2021
2022 and Beyond
Our team is working with a group of engineers to develop higher fidelity prototypes to compare our design's safety, mechanical, and force aspects against standard ET tubes. In conjunction, we've also optioned a pending patent from the University of Pittsburgh to continue development under the Respair umbrella and will subsequently license the IP rights next year.
Our target is to submit a regulatory application within the next four years and reach first sale of the device within the next five years.
We can continue progressing toward our mission of helping people breathe better when it matters most.