The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine received a monetary gift award of $70,000 from ALung Technologies Inc. in support of a research fellowship in the area of respiratory assist devices. The award augments ongoing studies with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine-Medical Devices Laboratory headed by William Federspiel, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford professor of bioengineering, chemical engineering, and surgery, University of Pittsburgh. This is the second donation from ALung in support of McGowan Institute research and is a good example of how university spin-out companies can provide support to continue the advancement of emerging technologies.
From technology originated at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, ALung is licensed by the University and is developing a device—the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System—designed to replace or supplement ventilators in hospitals. The Hemolung Respiratory Assist System removes carbon dioxide and delivers oxygen directly to the patient’s blood via a small catheter, inserted into the jugular or femoral vein, similar to acute kidney dialysis. This treatment provides a significant benefit over intubation and mechanical ventilation, in that it will allow the patient to talk and eat, and avoid sedation, while giving the lungs the opportunity to heal.
By directly delivering oxygen to the blood and removing carbon dioxide from the blood, the HemoLung provides a superior clinical and cost-effective solution when compared to a conventional ventilator (respirator) used in an ICU. The HemoLung is designed to support patients with acute breathing problems, providing their lungs a bridge to recovery much more efficiently and safely than is currently done. There are currently 450,000 patients in the U.S. that are ventilated each year for temporary, acute respiratory failure, resulting in a potential annual market of $2.7 billion. ALung also expects that the HemoLung will be a supplement to accelerate healing for patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS; injured lungs). On market introduction, the HemoLung is expected to replace 40-50% of ventilator use, and as physicians get comfortable with it, eventually as much as 60-80% of ventilator use in the ICU.
ALung has grown from a several person enterprise to a viable commercial enterprise. As ALung begins commercializing its system in 2012 in Europe and by 2013 in the U.S., ALung has added positions in operations, manufacturing, clinical affairs, and finance, bringing its employee count to over 25. The company has expanded its infrastructure and production capability and has moved into its own building. The “burn rate” on cash is significant for an enterprise such as Alung, especially during ramp-up to production. In October 2010, ALung announced that the company had closed a $14 million Series A financing round. The investment will support ongoing clinical trials of the HemoLung Respiratory Assist System and its subsequent commercialization.