B.C. Industry News

Biotechnology Focus Magazine – Canadian private-public investment to help scale-up LGTmedical’s phone oximeter

March 17, 2014

Private and public investors are injecting $2 million into a Canadian mobile health innovation that offers hope of preventing thousands of deaths and improving the health of expectant mothers, newborns and children throughout the developing world.

LionsGate Technologies (LGTmedical), a Vancouver-based social enterprise, has secured its first major financial backers to scale up development of the Phone Oximeterâ„¢, an app and medical sensor that turns a non-specialist, community-level health worker’s smartphone, tablet computer or laptop into an affordable and simple but sophisticated medical-grade diagnostic tool, which is currently typically available in the developing world only in some hospitals.

Irfhan Rajani, CEO of Vancouver-based Coleco Investments, led the $1 million angel investment in the device, which is to be matched with a $1 million grant from Grand Challenges Canada – the first such investment under a new $10 million strategic partnership between Grand Challenges Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD). The new funds will accelerate the scale-up of highly promising health innovations in developing countries. It will also enable innovators to access funding, technical and business support, and other resources to accelerate their transition to scale.

Initially prototyped in 2010 by the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital, the Phone Oximeterâ„¢ uses a predictive score that can accurately identify an estimated 80 per cent of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications resulting from high blood pressure.

The condition, pre-eclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality. Each year, about 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide who develop pre-eclampsia die from it and related complications. The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000. The Phone Oximeterâ„¢ can also reveal dangerously low oxygen levels in patients with pneumonia, which kills more than one million children annually.

Developed by scientists Drs. Mark Ansermino, Guy Dumont and Peter von Dadelszen of the University of British Columbia, the device measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person’s fingertip. This technique is known as pulse oximetry.