from the March 2008 issue

Novel respirator for babies

An Israeli start-up company is developing a novel, non-invasive device for detecting early-stage respiratory irregularities in premature babies and children. Unlike current respirators and supportive devices, it directly monitors respiration mechanics, making for earlier detection of the kind of complications that can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

Known as Pneumedicare, the company - which evolved from an award-winning project carried out by undergraduates at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - began operations in Israel five months ago.

The device can immediately detect deterioration in lung ventilation and the development of common problems in ICU patients, such as partial blockage of the air passages or ventilation from only one lung. It also detects less common, but still life-threatening, complications such as the accumulation of air between the lungs and chest cavity walls. Early detection of such problems reduces the risks of complications, damage to vital organs and irreversible brain damage.

Current respirators and supportive devices do not directly monitor chest cavity mechanics. As a result, up to six hours can elapse before medical personnel detect respiratory problems - often when the patient is already exhibiting signs of distress.

Our device monitors respiration mechanics, explains CEO Dr. Carmit Levy, who is also a lecturer at the Technion. "We place external sensors on the sides of the chest and the upper part of the stomach of a premature baby on a respirator. By doing so, we can monitor lack of symmetry between the two lungs and the development of mechanical disturbances in lung ventilation.

The market potential for the device is significant. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics, more than 245,000 babies per year in the U.S. are put on respirators, and estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics put the cost of ICU care for premature babies in the U.S. at more than $15 billion annually. When combined with the totals for children and adults, the cost of annual ICU care rises to more than $35 billion.

With hospital costs for the care of a premature baby estimated at $2,000 a day in the U.S. (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, January 19, 2007), the device also carries long-range financial implications. Early detection of problems will reduce the length of hospital stays, as well as long-term costs associated with treating those disabled as a result of respiratory problems in premature babies.

Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering Professor Amir Landesberg and Dr. Dan Waisman of the Technion Faculty of Medicine and Carmel Medical Center founded Pneumedicare. The pair conceived the idea for the undergraduate project -carried out by Technion students Hagay Weisbrod and Nitai Hanani - from which the company was born. The company's biomedical engineer Anna Feingersh conducts research and development of the clinical product.

John Deere buys Plastro
John Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) has signed a contract to acquire Plastro Irrigation Systems Ltd. (TASE: PLSTR) from Kibbutz Gvat at a company value of NIS 265 million. ($73m.) The kibbutz owns 75.1% of the company through Gvat Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperative Business Ltd.

Under the initial agreement from July 2007, John Deere has undertaken to keep Plastro open and employ Kibbutz Gvat members at the company for 15 years. Each kibbutz member will sign a personal job contract with John Deere. Kibbutz Gvat will cease receiving management fees for Plastro in exchange for an annual payment of $1.3 million over ten years for a non-competition agreement.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report March 2008

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