This UK startup plans to upend the antiquated word of COPD measurement

In 1846, a London surgeon John Hutchinson invented the spirometer, something into which one blows forcefully, to measure the volume of air inspired and expired through the lungs. It’s a pretty basic idea. Unbelievably, since then, technology has barely evolved. Today, the modern spirometer does not even measure the amount of CO2 expelled from the lungs, a crucial piece of information for evaluating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Now a Cambridge, UK startup has unveiled a radical new tech device that it claims is affordable, portable, requires minimal training, and also measures CO2.

health technology company sense of the tides has closed a £7.5 million ($9.3 million) fundraising round led by UK-based investors BGF and Downing Ventures.

The Cambridge-based company says its wearable medical device (N-Tidal) detects changes in lung function with sensitivity and enables faster, more accurate and automated diagnosis of COPD. The ability to measure asthma problems is in the product roadmap.

COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019 according to the World Health Organization. And with rising pollution levels around the world, it’s likely to get worse.

Despite the technology of the 1840s, the market for spirometers is projected It will be worth $616 million in 2023 and is poised to grow further at a CAGR of 5.4%, to reach US$1042.3 million by 2033.

However, spirometers are easily fooled when patients vary the force with which they blow and cannot easily distinguish between different types of respiratory conditions or provide information about the severity of the condition. In addition, it will also take around 30 minutes to test a patient with a spirometer. In England alone, 200-250 per 500,000 of the population are expecting a diagnostic test leading to waiting times of up to 5-10 years.

TidalSense says its N-Tidal device can measure a patient’s breathing in less than five minutes and send the data to a cloud-based platform over 2G networks.

In fact, I tried the device myself and sure enough, it measured the condition of my lungs in (give or take) less than 3 minutes.

TidalSense Team

In an interview with TechDigiPro, co-founder Dr. Ameera Patel (pictured right), CEO of TidalSense and an asthma sufferer herself, told me: “This hardware has been in development for eight years. There are several patents on it now. The sensor measures each molecule of carbon dioxide that leaves the lungs. What we have discovered by collecting all this data is that we can tell very sensitively when their lungs are getting worse.”

She says the problem is that people don’t know when they’re symptomatic: “They don’t know when they get the most sick. This device will tell me immediately and I will know to increase my inhalers. It’s the difference between being able to manage her symptoms and suddenly ending up in the hospital because she had no data on the period before things got worse.”

The company says it has tested the device in more than 1,000 patients, collecting more than 2.3 million patient breaths through studies and clinical trials.

“We are getting really very high accuracies in the diagnosis of COPD because, fundamentally, in COPD, the structure of the lungs changes. From the data, we build highly accurate diagnostic tests, which we seek to commercialize with the funds,” added Patel.

Tim Rea, BGF’s head of early-stage investments, commented in a statement that “this solution is an excellent example of where advanced machine learning techniques can be applied to deliver faster diagnoses, greater efficiencies and better patient outcomes.”


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