Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays.BreathQuant Medical Systems Inc., is developing a technology it hopes becomes the first screen to test for life threatening diseases.

BreathQuant co-founder and President Michael Sinsheimer tells Local Tech Wire that the company has attracted both government support in the form of a National Institute of Health Phase I grant in excess of $100,000 and an undisclosed amount of angel investment.

Sinsheimer founded the company in April 2001 with Dr. Jeffery Kline, director of research in the emergency department at Carolinas Medical Center.

The company, which bases its technology on intellectual property originated at CMC, Charlotte, makes a software application called PRETest Consult. It matches emergency room patient symptoms to those of thousands of other patients to establish the probability the symptoms are life threatening.

Sinsheimer explains: “When the probability of disease is very low, the patient can be discharged by the hospital without the use of any additional testing. The case is documented and time stamped reducing the risk of malpractice suits. Currently, there are more than 10 million emergency department visits per year for chest pain. Most patients visiting the Emergency Room with chest pain have no problems but get put through a battery of tests costing the system billions of dollars.”

BreathQuant is one of two medical device spinouts based on CMC research which will present at the “Charlotte’s Emerging Role in Biotechnology” conference at UNC-Charlotte Sept. 23. The other is MW Imaging Medical.

Reduces medical costs

Sinsheimer says the company’s first module for its system is for signs of acute coronary disease. It is developing a second module to test for pulmonary embolism (PE). PE strikes 600,000 Americans a year and 10 percent die. Kline is internationally known as an expert in the disease.

Sinsheimer says the product could reduce unnecessary testing and help drive down medical costs. “Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control. Employers are shifting part of the burden to employees. Part of the reason is medical malpractice insurance costs,” he adds.

“In our validation study, we ruled out a significant percentage of patients that otherwise would’ve been given to expensive testing — we’re projected to save the system significant dollars as a result.”

Breath of life

In addition, the company is developing a special breath analyzer to quickly test for pulmonary emboloism. Current tests require a radioactive dye, a radiologist to read results, and hours to do.

The device measures the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in each breath and gives results in a screen readout in five minutes and does not require a radiologist to interpret, Sinsheimer says. “It rules out those in a safe zone.”

Patients who have non safe-zone readouts would then move on to more elaborate testing.

He says the first software module for PRETest consult requires putting in 60 seconds of data.

He adds that the software will also point to the best clinical pathway by looking at how the fate of other patients resolved depending on their treatment. Sinsheimer says it’s almost a “best practices” guideline.

The company has applied for a Phase II NIH seven-figure grant but won’t hear if it will get the money until the end of the year.

Sinsheimer says BreathQuant is exploring the idea of getting insurance company interest. “They’re the ones footing the bills for testing,” he says. He says the first module for acute coronary syndrome may be available by 2004.

New BioSpace map

BioSpace, an online site that collects global data on the biotech industry, including a special section on what it calls the BioNC hotbed, is redoing its Bio NC map.

The map, used by the NC Biotech Center, the State Department of Commerce and the CED in promotional efforts, shows major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and some smaller ones.

Companies pay from $4,250 up to $11,500, depending upon size, to be represented on the map. Russ Young, Triangle representative for BioSpace says, “A big company, GSK or Wyethe, would pay in the $8,500 range. A law firm or recruiter would pay $11,500.”

Young says BioSpace used to update the map every few years but is going to do it annually now. Participants have numerous reasons for signing on, says Young. “They get a company profile on the site and links to their job pages and press releases. Branding and advertising are the main reasons, but others do it for the human resources benefits and some pay for it out of their investor relations budget.”

BioPavilion redux

Peter Cunningham, director of international trade at the NC Department of Commerce, says the NC Bio Pavilion at the BIO 2003, the major annual industry event, was “a home run,” so they’re doing it again next year.

BIO 2004 is set for San Francisco in June next year.

The 2003 pavilion brought together 110 people from 51 NC biotech companies and organizations in 1,000 square feet at the 2003 BIO event in Washington DC.

Details of next year’s pavilion such as cost to exhibit are expected to be available after Sept. 30, says a State Commerce Department spokesperson.

NC BioSpace: www.biospace.com/hotbed.cfm?RegionID=20