Using a cellphone to monitor coronary disease

The Biolapis heart monitoring device won a silver medal in the medical category at the 52nd Global Exhibition for Technological Innovation held in Belgium last year. Someday we may not only be using our cellular telephones to communicate with our …

The Biolapis heart monitoring device won a silver medal in the medical category at the 52nd Global Exhibition for Technological Innovation held in Belgium last year. Someday we may not only be using our cellular telephones to communicate with our friends and to keep updated on breaking news – but we may be counting on them to keep us healthy as well.

Israeli company Biolapis has developed a new device for monitoring coronary disease, and is in advanced negotiations with Samsung to integrate the device into a future generation of cellphones. In early December, a delegation from the South Korean technology giant came to Israel to observe the device in use in clinical trials.

The Biolapis heart monitoring device has already garnered international attention, winning a silver medal in the medical category at the 52nd Global Exhibition for Technological Innovation held in Belgium last year. At the exhibition, 1,200 scientific patents from 40 countries were presented at the exhibition. Representatives of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor Chief Scientist presented the device at the Israeli pavilion.

Since winning the medal, “I’ve been very busy,” says Dr. Nitzan Yaniv, 43, who developed the device. In addition to the Samsung delegation, Yaniv has been approached by several other large corporations interested in his idea, including Radio Shack. And “every cardiologist who has seen this device is excited by its potential,” he said.

Yaniv’s formal background is in psychology, not technology, but as a master’s student at BGU fifteen years ago, he adopted an interdisciplinary approach: the university in the Negev was so small in those days that what was known as ‘the Beersheva Spirit’ prevailed.

It was through the Beersheva connection that he got to know Dr. Amos Katz, who became a key part of the Biolapis device. Katz, the Associate Dean for Students Affairs at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Director of the Clinical Electrophysiology Laboratory, was intrigued by the idea of such an inexpensive, easy and user-friendly cardiological screening tool.

“Professor Katz knew from his work that heart exams had to be made easier, but he didn’t have the tools. I sat in his office and showed him how my device worked and he immediately called in his colleagues to see,” recalls Yaniv, who grew up on a small kibbutz near Haifa.

The device is currently undergoing tests at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva which are being led by Katz, of the Soroka Heart Unit. The test focuses on monitoring coronary diseases by registering changes in pulse, and compares the efficacy of the test at identifying patients and predicting coronary complications, in comparison to existing procedures.

The device, currently being used in clinical trials in Israel, is a handheld computer device for cardiovascular disease screening which achieves the sensitivity currently available only in high end imaging equipment, while maintaining the accessibility of a blood pressure monitor.

It offers general practitioners, clinicians and cardiologists an affordable method to reliably diagnose and monitor cardiovascular risks. The test protocol is easy to conduct, does not require any other equipment, and can be done at point of care, using a non-invasive finger sensor. With a simple test that takes five minutes, a doctor can get immediate accurate information on the danger of cardiological complications.

The Biolapis core technology is based on response analysis of the cardiovascular system to a controlled stimulation. The device analyzes the pulse wave, and extracts multiple indicators of cardiovascular dysfunction, which can also be presented as a single risk factor score.

The monitoring ability it offers is extremely valuable for monitoring and continued care for heart patients who have already had a heart attack or have had an angioplasty. Despite its simplicity, the test has been found to be more reliable than more complex and uncomfortable checks such as EKG stress tests.

Its attractiveness to the medical community is enhanced by its low cost. With costs a key consideration in medical care today, this device maintains the efficacy of premium diagnostic solutions, such as nuclear and ultrasound imaging.

After its use for monitoring current cardiac patients is established, its developers say that the device can be used to estimate the danger of the development of heart disease in healthy people, particularly those who suffer from risk factors such as high blood pressure or who are overweight, but don’t yet know that they have heart disease.

The fact that the test is quick, easy, and comfortable, will make it an optimal screening device, and the fact that it is sophisticated and compact means that it will be possible to integrate it into devices such as cellphones.

Biolapis has received financing by Office of the Chief Scientist of the government’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and the founders, and is in various stages of due diligence by a number of financial and strategic investors. The government funding and investment by the founders allowed for the creation of a prototype that has been made that is currently undergoing clinical trials in hospitals.

Yaniv believes that once his device proves itself in Israel, the move to marketing it overseas should be exceptionally speedy. “We don’t need FDA approval in the United States, because our device is not something new, it already exists but is used for other purposes. I believe that I could sell it tomorrow over the counter.”