In today’s world where chronic diseases are rising, there is a need for monitoring the health state of patients to help them get the proper treatment in time before a serious situation such as heart failure occurs. This can be both a big expense for the patient and for society. Just monitoring chronic heart diseases has an estimated annual expense of $40 billion for the US healthcare system with the disease affecting 7 million Americans[i]. Furthermore, the way that patients are monitored today, is in some cases highly deteriorating for the patients’ abilities to live normal lives without having to carry around bulky equipment and wiring.
Luckily, important steps are being taken to address these issues by the leading cloth-based nanosensing company, Nanowear Inc., tackling a major chronic disease that unfortunately is on the rise. Through their current product SimpleSENSE, they are able to help patients with chronic heart diseases using nanotechnology. Instead of having to use clumsy sensors and wires, SimpleSENSE is a simple undergarment able to pick up signals from the skin of the patients. The vast amount of data is then collected and analyzed in the cloud for the hospital and the patient to be warned weeks ahead in the case of needing medical treatment. This is possible as the signals picked up by SimpleSENSE are way more subtle and appear earlier than the otherwise visible symptoms that the patient would have in advance of heart failure.
The way it works is, explained by the company’s CEO, Venk Varadan, by having billions of tiny nanosensors embedded in the cloth. When zooming in, they simply look like upwards standing pillars which because of their shape and the material, are sensitive to electrical, hemodynamic, acoustic, and dynamic signals and can be picked up by a compact device embedded in the cloth. A large amount of data is then analyzed in the cloud by a machine learning algorithm, which looks for indications of the patient needing treatment and can transmit the results to the patient’s smartphone via Bluetooth.
The company’s monitoring system and its first product, SimplECG™, have been approved by the US FDA which means that one of the big regulatory boundaries has been cleared. Currently, the undergarment, SimpleSENSE is being tested in a clinical study at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Hackensack Meridian Health programs[ii] and is waiting for FDA approval.
It is obviously a revolutionizing product for patients with chronic heart failure, but the possibilities range even further with lots of other diseases that could be monitored this way to alleviate current pains for patients and save them and the society a lot of money. Recently, the company announced an expanded COVID-19 remote diagnostic research alliance with Hackensack Meridian Health Systems where the technology could be used to monitor COVID patients.[iii]
A future vision for products like SimpleSENSE would be in less serious conditions such as for minor sicknesses such as cold or fevers or even for athletes wanting to maximize their physical performance.
Challenges to the visionary applications of cloth-based sensors like this, nevertheless, exist. One main challenge that has already been mentioned is getting federal approval which naturally can be a barrier to these technologies as it can be both time- and cost-consuming. Nanowear Inc. has overcome some of these approval steps but there is still some way to go.
Another challenge is the power supply which at the moment is solved by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery attached to the garment. In the future, it would be interesting to see if innovative solutions could make it possible to avoid having to use a battery. Perhaps the power could someday come from Peltier materials (materials that can generate electricity from heat) integrated into the garment.
Presently, the company is not public, hence it is not possible to find all financial information about it. It might not be possible to invest right now, but it is an exciting journey to follow. They have a good intellectual property portfolio[iv] and as a first mover, the company is likely to possess large advantages over future competitors.
Short facts about Nanowear Inc. [v]:
- Founded in 2013 by CEO Venk Varadan, and inventor and CINO Dr. Vijay Varadan
- Seed investment: $3M
- Venture Capital Series A round[vi]: $3.6M
- No. of employees: 12
- Offices: HQ[vii]: New York City, NY. R&D: University Park, PA. Engineering: Berkeley, CA