Nick Delmonico has always had asthma. Now, the avid runner and MBA student at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has created a device allowing asthma-sufferers to measure and manage their ailment.
“If I can hear myself breathing, I start to get really anxious,” Nick says. “When I train for marathons and triathlons, I just take my inhaler whenever feel like it’s right, but there’s no science behind it.”
Inspired, Nick has harnessed recent medical technology used by companies like Nike and Apple to bring more certainty into an asthma-sufferers life.
Called Pulmawear, the device uses a patch that sticks to a wearer’s back or chest. If the wearer experiences any early symptoms of asthma - such as wheezing, coughing, or crackles - an alert will be sent to his smartphone.
“We envision it like a Nike running app, you use it when you want to run,” Nick says. “When you open it up, you just hit ‘Run’ and you’re on your way.”
The Fitbit-like device can even measure a user’s rate of inhalation and exhalation, which is an indicator of lung capacity and health. It also tabulates coughing rates to check for chest tightness and bronchial tube inflammation.
The idea for the Pulmawear, which cost around $15,000 to build, sprang out of a medical “hack-a-thon” in Philadelphia. Delmonico and his team didn’t win the competition, but their creation sparked so much interest that they were able to secure enough funding to continue developing and improving the device.
As Nick and his team worked to turn Pulmawear from an idea into a business, they received help from Fox Business School’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.
“They set me up with a mentor who helped me with the business competition, who helps me write a business plan, helps me do a pro forma,” Nick says, referring to a company's financial projections based on sales and cost. He even had former finance professors check his figures when he was calculating company expenses.
“It’s already hard enough being an entrepreneur and building something from scratch,” Nick says. “But to try to conceptualize how to build and scale something, to knowing how to meet people and get through all these regulatory burdens, I don’t know how anybody could do it alone.”
The venture has since transformed in Strados Labs, the moniker for Delmonico’s small six-person team of developers, designers, attorneys and interns. Delmonico founded the venture with two medical residents —both of whom Nick calls “rock stars.”
“They do the bench-testing, they do a lot of the engineering side work,” he says. “I concentrate more on the business from a project management perspective.”
Although the device is only a functional prototype at the moment, the team expects to go to market in the next year. The device will sell for around $129, plus a nominal fee to use the connected phone application.
The group is also waiting to receive a formal patent from the US government before launch. Until then, Nick and his team will continue to use Fox’s facilities to perfect their device.