Discover more stories about Mitacs — and the game-changing innovations driven by students and postdocs.
HALIFAX – A Halifax entrepreneur is poised to dramatically improve the treatment of sleep apnea, and other breathing conditions, with the launch of a first-of-its-kind respiratory monitoring device that provides a safer, more comfortable solution for patients.
The ground-breaking product has earned Hamed Hanafi (pictured), 33, a prestigious award from Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada for business and academia.
In recognition of the ongoing success of his start-up and its work to develop an add-on device for all types of breathing assistance machines, Hanafi – a former Mitacs intern at Dalhousie University, and founder and president of Halifax-based start-up NovaResp Technologies – was presented with the Mitacs Global Impact Entrepreneur Award on May 28 at a ceremony in Halifax.
NovaResp’s lead product, cMAP, targets the estimated 25 million people in North America diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by the way throat muscles intermittently relax and block airways during sleep.
This can lead to a number of health issues, including increased chances of stroke and heart failure. Patients are commonly prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines as therapy, yet more than half of them do not adhere to their prescribed treatment due to poor airflow management and discomfort.
Considered revolutionary, cMAP solves the problem by applying proprietary machine learning and AI algorithms in a small in-line device that can be attached to CPAP machines, allowing them to ‘learn’ individual breathing patterns and adjust their operation accordingly. The result is a more personalized therapy that is capable of pre-emptively stopping sleep apnea events from occurring, leading to better airflow and a more comfortable night’s sleep overall.
“Current machines are reactive, meaning they recognize when a person’s throat collapses and then apply pressure to open the airway, a process that takes from 10 to 20 seconds,” Hanafi explained. “Our device predicts when an obstructive sleep apnea event is about to occur and prevents it from happening altogether, offering a more comfortable experience for the patient that culminates in better adherence to their prescribed therapy, a more restful sleep and better overall health.”
Since launching in 2016, NovaResp has successfully built a prototype and will be conducting its first observational study on sleep apnea patients at QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax this year. Clinical trials will follow, with the goal of going to market in 2022.
“Sleep apnea is a worldwide problem estimated to affect one in three men and one in six women,” said Hanafi, noting that the company is currently seeking a strategic R&D partner to help accelerate its go-to-market strategy and create new Canadian manufacturing jobs. “Since day one, my motivation has been to help people. It’s extremely satisfying to know that the product we’re developing has the potential to make such a positive impact.”
The innovative platform technology also collects useful respiratory data that can be used to predict when patients are at risk of developing other respiratory diseases. Future applications for the technology include monitoring patients while they’re under anesthesia or on mechanical ventilators in the ICU, as well as monitoring of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Hanafi is one of five winners of the Entrepreneur Award, presented by Mitacs (www.mitacs.ca), who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians.
“Canada has exceptional talent and Mitacs is extremely proud to support young entrepreneurs in spring-boarding to market the next generation of innovations,” said Alejandro Adem, Mitacs CEO and scientific director, noting that one out of every 10 Mitacs interns chooses to pursue their own business. “Their contributions are strengthening the Canadian economy, spurring productivity and creating jobs.”
For information about Mitacs and its programs, visit mitacs.ca/newsroom.