Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Profusa lands $7.5m grant to develop sensors for monitoring soldiers’ health

Steve Rogerson
July 26, 2015
The US government is paying Profusa $7.5m to develop implantable sensors that can provide real-time monitoring of a combat soldier's health status.
The grant comes jointly from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and the US Army Research Office (ARO) to develop implantable biosensors for the simultaneous, continuous monitoring of multiple body chemistries.
California-based Profusa is a developer of tissue-integrated biosensors. The award supports further development of the company's biosensor technology for real-time detection of the body's chemical constituents.
"Profusa's vision is to replace a point-in-time chemistry panel that measures multiple biomarkers, such as oxygen, glucose, lactate, urea and ions, with a biosensor that provides a continuous stream of wireless data," said Ben Hwang, Profusa's chairman and chief executive officer. "Darpa's mission is to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. We are gratified to be awarded this grant to accelerate the development of our novel tissue-integrating sensors for application to soldier health and peak performance."
Supported by Darpa, ARO and the National Institutes of Health, Profusa's technology and bioengineering approach overcomes the largest hurdle in long-term use of biosensors in the body: the foreign body response. Placed just under the skin with a specially designed injector, each tiny biosensor is a flexible fibre, 2 to 5mm long and 200 to 500 microns in diameter. Rather than being isolated from the body, Profusa's biosensors work fully integrated within the body's tissue – without any metal device or electronics – overcoming the effects of the foreign body response for more than a year.
Each biosensor is comprised of a bioengineered smart hydrogel similar to contact lens material forming a porous, tissue-integrating scaffold that induces capillary and cellular in-growth from surrounding tissue. The smart gel luminesces upon exposure to light in proportion to the concentration of a chemical such as oxygen, glucose or other biomarker.
"Long-lasting, implantable biosensors that provide continuous measurement of multiple body chemistries will enable monitoring of a soldier's metabolic and dehydration status, ion panels, blood gases and other key physiological biomarkers," said Natalie Wisniewski, Profusa's co-founder and chief technology officer. "Our on-going programme with Darpa builds on Profusa's tissue-integrating sensor that overcomes the foreign body response and serves as a technology platform for the detection of multiple analytes."
Profusa's first medical product, the Lumee oxygen sensing system, is a single-biomarker sensor designed to measure oxygen. In contrast to blood oxygen reported by other devices, the system incorporates technology that can monitor local tissue oxygen. When applied to the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD), it prompts the clinician to provide therapeutic action to ensure tissue oxygen levels persist throughout the treatment and healing process.
Pending CE Mark, Lumee is slated to be available in Europe in 2016 for use by vascular surgeons, wound-healing specialists and other licensed healthcare providers who may benefit in monitoring local tissue oxygen. PAD affects 202 million people worldwide, 27 million of whom live in Europe and North America, with an annual economic burden of more than $74bn in the USA alone.