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Swiss startup to commercialize optical blood pressure monitor

23 May 2018

'aktiia' spin-off from CSEM developing wristband sensor for continuous, non-invasive monitoring.

A startup company in Switzerland says that it will “revolutionize” the way that blood pressure is monitored, thanks to miniaturized optical sensor technology developed at the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM).

Called “aktiia”, the spin-out firm is the result of some 15 years of research by Josep Solà and colleagues. They are working to integrate the optical technology into a simple wristband that would be able to provide continuous, real-time blood pressure data for people deemed to be at risk from hypertension.

“The creation of aktiia represents a major step forward in the precise long-term monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, as well as the fight against cardiovascular diseases,” remarked the company in a release announcing its creation, also pointing out that the condition is believed to be responsible for some 7.5 million deaths every year worldwide.

“The paradox of hypertension is that most people suffering from this condition are unaware of it,” added the spin-out. “As such, hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’.”

The traditional and familiar method for blood pressure monitoring involves the use of a “sphygmomanometer” – the inflatable cuff placed around the arm during a visit to the doctor, clinic, or hospital.

Though regarded as the gold standard method for measuring blood pressure, the technology is more than a century old, cumbersome, incapable of continuous monitoring, and tends to result in low compliance among patients prescribed to self-monitor their condition.

“As a consequence, healthcare professionals lack access to complete and high-quality data for their diagnosis and the treatment of this disease,” reckons aktiia.

Venture backing
Solà, who is aktiia’s CTO, and colleagues believe that the problem can be solved with their combination of optical sensors and algorithms, said to have been validated clinically over the course of four clinical trials involving 150 patients. Last year, the CSEM researcher won the Neode prize for his work on the development of optical blood pressure monitoring.

According to a CSEM presentation, the non-invasive approach is based on photo-plethysmography, an optical technique able to determine blood volume changes in small blood vessels. A related patent filed more than a decade ago also suggests that the technique is able to provide continuous non-invasive blood pressure monitoring through pulse-wave velocity measurements.

Now, thanks to efforts with co-founder and CEO Matthia Bertschi, the company is said to have attracted venture investment from Switzerland and the US, and is looking to build a global team with offices in both those countries.

“In the coming months, aktiia will release its technology in form of a CE-certified and FDA-approved medical wrist wearable that will seamlessly integrate into people’s lives,” stated aktiia.

“Having robust and detailed yet comfortable monitoring of one’s blood pressure will allow patients and healthcare professionals alike to better understand the underlying causes of high blood pressure in order to develop new approaches to deal with this limiting and life-threatening condition.”

CSEM video: Josep Solà - aktiia SA - Blood Pessure Monitoring

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