Move over, plastic stethoscopes: A number of innovations from TEDMED Hive 2013 companies aim to help even the littlest patients become engaged in their own real-life care.
Kinsa makes an oral thermometer that leverages the crowdsourcing power of a smart phone. The thermometer plugs into and transmits data to a free smartphone app – iOS now, but Android as well in the future – which also records and tracks symptoms and temps for easy retrieval at a pediatrician’s office. What’s more, the next phase of the product will provide crowd sourced data from social networks to allow parents to see what’s going on in a child’s neighborhood or school. Strep going around? Lice? Better act now.
The company is focusing first on tracking childhood ills, because mothers are the primary users of thermometers, says Kinsa deputy CEO Qian Qian Tang, and because children are prime carriers of highly contagious diseases like flu, whooping cough and measles.
The FDA approved the thermometer in January and a first prototype is in production. It’s priced at $19.99, a point below many digital thermometers on the market, but to reach the mass market it will need to provide local data.
Kinsa also offers a solution for getting the temp in the first place: The iOS app runs a game to keep Junior amused while you’re trying to take his temp, and send a warning signal when he wriggles and loses contact with the thermometer – a problem he can correct himself.
Asthma is another prevalent childhood disease – some 6.8 million kids in the U.S. suffer from it, according to the CDC – and management can be tricky. GeckoCap is a small low-energy smart button that, when placed over an asthma inhaler, wirelessly sends dosage records when near a smartphone. It also glows to let kids know when it’s time for their next dose, potentially avoiding a serious attack.
The idea is to help young patients learn to manage their condition and to get the knack of using wireless reporting.
“As a physician, I couldn’t educate my adult patients because they don’t want to learn anymore, but with children there’s really a place to make some change,” says Yechiel Engelhard, CEO and founder.
Engelhard says the company aimed to assist asthma patients because of the disease prevalence, and also what he says is a lack of innovation in drug administration for it. GeckoCap is in initial production for product testing, and has also partnered with a number of medical institutions that are eager to conduct studies on dosage administration and response with the first large group of patients to adopt the technology this summer.
Nanoly Bioscience aims to help save lives of children in the developing world. Many lack access to vaccines, in part because vaccines need to be kept within a precise temperature range until administered. Breaking the “cold chain” contributes to some 25% of wasted vaccines each year, according to the World Health organization, and hampers delivery to remote parts of the world that have no electricity.
Despite the best efforts of many aid organizations, there are still critical gaps in cold chain equipment. “Looking at what exists now, you’ll find refrigeration for the cold chain; you’ll find camels that carry solar refrigerators,” said Nanxi Liu, Nanoly’s founder. The Gates Foundation has awarded millions in research for solutions, but Liu points out the need is dire enough to accommodate many ideas.
For its part, Nanoly is skirting the equipment issue entirely. The group is developing a non-toxic nanoparticle polymer that will eliminate the need for refrigeration for protein-based vaccines. It can be mixed with the vaccine at any point in its supply or transport chain.
Liu says she and her co-founder saw the unmet need for Nanoly first-hand: “He’s from India. I grew up in rural China, and I didn’t get any of my immunizations until I came to the U.S. Both of us saw an impact in our lives from a lack of vaccines, and we saw the problems of vaccine transportation first-hand,” she says.
Intel’s Top Social Innovation for 2012, Nanoly’s R&D has received funding from Intel, Dell, UC at Berkeley, Cornell and Duke.
Catalyst is a regular series about innovation in health and medicine, with a focus on companies from TEDMED 2013 Hive. Click here to read previous posts.