Atlanta-based Ataia Medical, a medical device startup that produces a tool that allows patients wearing hospital respiratory masks to communicate, has raised a seed funding round of $300,000. Investors include medical-specific firm Green Park & Golf Ventures and angel investors that specialize in medical devices.
Ataia Medical’s patent-pending device is geared towards patients that require ventilation, i.e. an external breathing mask. Though noninvasive, the masks cannot be taken off for more than a few seconds without the patient becoming unable to breathe.
Though the ventilation masks are life-saving, they cover the whole face and thus render the patient unable to communicate verbally, often delaying or preventing care.
“These patients can’t communicate any concerns, pain, or even diagnostic information,” says Tyler Register, co-founder and CEO. Register graduated in 2017 from Georgia Tech with a biomedical degree, as did two of the startup’s other co-founders.
Their fourth co-founder is Dr. A. Ian Wong, a critical care fellow physician at Emory. When explaining the problem to Register, Dr. Wong described situations like that when a ventilated patient could not communicate anything about his condition to the physicians caring for him.
“Eventually [the providers] figured out that not only was he HIV-positive, but he hadn’t been taking his HIV medicine for weeks. So not only could that have been solved in a matter of seconds if he was able to communicate, but now they’ve also exposed two full departments of the hospital to an HIV-positive patient,” explains Register.
After doing customer discovery by talking to providers, patients and families of patients, Register says they realized the problem was even bigger than they originally realized: a few million patients each year require these masks for an average of six days at a time.
They began testing designs, eventually settling on a reusable communication box attached to a disposable patch that sticks to the outside of the mask, picking up a voice signal and amplifying it enough so words can be heard. They joined a medical device accelerator, Health Wildcatters, to gain access to mentors and perfect their original design.
The Ataia Medical team also had to figure out how much to charge for the device — they didn’t want to place the cost burden on the patient. They eventually settled on a model where the device is a very small percentage of the total cost billed when a hospital is treating a patient who can’t breathe, thereby lumping the device into the already-existing bill.
“The idea is that if the patient fails this kind of therapy, which happens one-third of the time because they’re just not compliant with it, it costs the hospital four times as much,” says Register.
Now that they’ve graduated from the accelerator, Atlanta-based Ataia Medical has joined Tricera Labs, a prominent medical technology incubator in Dallas, TX. Tricera Labs’ CEO Chris Hanson said in a statement that the team is “excited about Ataia Medical’s product offering.”
“Care providers we’ve talked with are extremely frustrated by their inability to communicate with their patients undergoing noninvasive ventilation and the resulting barriers prohibiting an efficient treatment,” Hanson said.
The team will be focusing their time during the incubator, and this capital influx, on continued product development, as well as securing FDA clearance.