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María Artunduaga, CEO Respira Labs.
Dr. María Artunduaga is the founder and CEO. Photo: @DrArtunduaga.

Respira Labs, technology to breathe better

This Latina-led, California-based startup specializes in respiratory care and develops devices that can be used at home.

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After the painful loss of her grandmother, who died of an acute case of COPD, Dr. María Artunduaga, who was born in Colombia, put aside her sadness and was inspired to create a medical technology startup that seeks to help patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, COPD and COVID-19.

Artunduaga, today the director and CEO of Respira Labs, is a translational scientist and physician trained at Harvard and UC Berkeley. She has led her company with the single-minded purpose of preventing and eliminating lung-borne diseases by empowering patients and physicians with technology that brings them high quality, home-based actionable health information.

Thanks to the development of a wearable chest device, which uses acoustic resonance as a means to assess lung function and identify changes in lung air volume, Respira Labs recently announced the raising of $2.8 million to strengthen the production of the long-awaited tool.

Artunduaga and her team initially received $1 million in pre-seed funding rounds, an effort led by Zentynel Frontier Investments with the support of VentureWell, ImpactAssets, and other investors based in the United States and Latin America. Added to this initial investment, was an additional $1.8 million in grants from funds such as Business Innovation Research (SBIR), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

“We’re excited to be making strides in a highly competitive space and are grateful to the organizations who care deeply about our mission and technology,” Dr. Artunduaga highlighted in an interview with Accesswire.

The Colombian researcher also noted:

We have the potential to help improve the lives of millions of people living with lung issues around the world. Early detection is key, and our technology will help people identify problems earlier to avoid dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.

While this announcement is important for the medical community, it also comes at a time when funding for startups of Latino origin has been stagnant, leading Latin American company owners to receive only 2.1% out of total investments in 2021. This is despite the fact that, according to the SBA, these new ventures are part of the fastest growing business segment, accounting for 14% of all small businesses in the U.S.

Respira Labs Technology

Sylvee, the company's wearable device named after Dr. Artunduaga's grandmother, features special technology that “takes the concept of acoustics to the next level.” The team incorporates hardware and software, as well as data science and clinical experts.

Using lung resonance imaging, a noninvasive treatment that uses microphones to assess respiratory health, each patient is given a comprehensive view of their condition, flagging potential abnormalities and enabling earlier treatment, all through training users to be able to manage their health from home without going to the hospital.

“We are convinced that no one else is trying to tackle the monitoring of lung function, from an acoustic point of view, with the sophistication and rigor with which Respira Lab is doing it. This opens the door to a huge market that will continue to grow in a post-COVID world,” Cristian Hernández-Cueva, serial entrepreneur and general partner of Zentynel, highlighted in the publication.

Respira Labs has also been able to advance the development of its devices thanks to its selection as a participant in the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) accelerator program, which is sponsored by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The Current Landscape

The startup, which hopes to obtain FDA approval for its product in the next two years, is currently carrying out feasibility trials with 30 patients in Florida and California.

Respira Labs already has three patents for its technology, including a device that transmits a signal, by means of a pulse or a tone, which is used to determine lung capacity, the volume of air trapped in the lungs, and the presence of COPD.

In addition to Dr. Artunduaga, Respira Labs, based in Mountain View, California, has a research team of Latinas and several developers in Medellin, Colombia.

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