By Matthew Pross, Publications Manager and Editor for the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
Last year was a banner year for South Side-based ALung Technologies. The local life sciences firm received CE Mark approval and entered select European markets with its Hemolung Respiratory Assist System (RAS), raised a $15.8-million Series B-1 round to support the product launch, and was named the Life Sciences Company of the Year by the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Tech 50 Awards.
Making 2013 even more memorable for ALung was the fact that the product launch was the culmination of a 13-year journey that began when the company spun out of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2000. After two product iterations and years of clinical trials, the Hemolung RAS is now providing Respiratory Dialysis® to intensive care patients with pulmonary diseases who need help breathing. Using a special filter to remove carbon dioxide from a patient’s blood while adding oxygen, the Hemolung RAS allows a patients’ lungs to rest and heal without the invasive and debilitating effects of a ventilator.
“The Hemolung RAS is the first device to provide simple, efficient, low-flow extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal for patients with acute respiratory failure,” Peter DeComo, ALung’s Chairman and CEO, said. “Our device connects to the patient via a catheter placed in either the femoral vein in the leg or jugular vein in the neck and filters their blood through a device that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen. Filtering the blood in this way takes some of the hard work off of the patient’s lungs so that they can begin to recover.”
“Intervention with our artificial lung helps stop the downward spiral of respiratory failure common with the exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” he explained. “Traditionally, a breathing tube and ventilator are used to stabilize COPD patients who develop respiratory failure. These treatments are quite invasive, often leaving patients sedated and dependent on the ventilator for long periods of time. The advantage of our device is that it can be applied before the patient reaches the point of needing to be placed on the ventilator. Within two hours on the Hemolung RAS, the patient will be resting comfortably and breathing normally.”
DeComo and the ALung team spent 2013 building out a reference center program to gain traction in the European market. As part of this strategy, ALung targeted influential medical centers around Europe to adopt the Hemolung RAS in their intensive care units.
“Any time the standard of care radically changes, it takes time for treatment practices to catch up to the latest technologies,” DeComo explained. “With our reference center program, we have targeted luminary institutions in the European medical community as the key early adopters of the Hemolung RAS.
“2014 will be our first full year of commercialization,” he continued. “In the coming year, we hope to expand use of our respiratory device to additional markets in Europe, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Hungary.”
As ALung continues to gain approval to enter new markets and begin to sell its respiratory device through larger distributors, the new standard of care made possible by the Hemolung RAS will begin to spread outside of Europe.
The Hemolung RAS is currently being used in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. In addition, ALung is seeking regulatory approval in several Asian markets, including Japan, China, South Korea and Singapore, and is also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to gain regulatory approval for the Hemolung RAS in the United States. ALung manufactures the device at its Pittsburgh location on the South Side.
Source: TEQ Magazine