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Breaz Medical, a new spin-off of IGTP for the timely diagnosis of COPD

- Innovation

Left to right: Antoni Rosell (Hospital Germans Trias), James Hugall (Breaz Medical), Petra Stockinger (Breaz Medical) and Jordi Barretina (IGTP)
 

  • Timely diagnosis is crucial to detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an underdiagnosed entity in 75% of cases
  • Breaz is developing a fast and precise testing device to improve the diagnosis and prognosis of this respiratory disease

"Making an invisible disease visible, so that affected people can receive the help they deserve". Such is voiced by James Hugall, Breaz Medical CEO, the new spin-off of The Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP), within the framework of the Can Ruti Campus. The company is responsible for developing a new diagnostic method for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory disease that hampers air from entering the lungs. Antoni Rosell, Clinical Director of the Thorax Department of the Germans Trias Hospital, is mover of the project.

The objective of Breaz is providing a universal, timely, and accessible diagnosis in order to permit starting life-saving treatments. Its first focus is on COPD, a chronic obstructive respiratory disease that is highly invisible and often diagnosed too late, making it the third most common cause of death and a major cause of disability globally.

"We want to make sure that the medical and nursing staff as well as patients have the tools necessary for a timely and precise diagnosis of chronic respiratory diseases in environments with limited resources, as Primary Care" explains Petra Stockinger CSO -scientific director- and co-leader, together with Hugall, of this project. "We want to reduce the huge burden of this disease for the society and the health system, improving the quality of life of patients, and decreasing mortality and hospitalizations". Both researchers transitioned from science to innovation in healthcare "with the wish to make a real difference in people's lives" explains Hugall. The project also counts on the collaboration of the chief mechanical engineer Rodolfo Plaza Herz.

How does it work?

The device prototype that is been developed for diagnosing respiratory diseases is fast (less than 5 minutes), offers precise and easy-to-interpret results, and requires little training. In this way, it allows detecting and diagnosing diseases timely in all clinical environments, especially in Primary Care, which is an area that needs a timely detection.  Although its first focus is on COPD, the platform will be eventually extended to other respiratory diseases.

An idea that can make the difference

The idea of the startup emerged before the COVID-19 pandemic within the program d·HEALTH Barcelona, promoted by Biocat. Initially, the founders performed a 2-month immersion in the Respiratory Department of the Germans Trias Hospital and were shocked by the underdiagnosis of COPD and the challenges associated with the current method used to detect this disease (spirometry) for both patients and doctors.  

In 2020, they decided to create Breaz Medical SL, with the objective to develop and commercialize a new solution for the diagnosis of lung diseases. The same year, they managed to join the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator, a German early-stage start-up program that supports first-time founders in healthcare.

At the end of 2021, they returned to Barcelona after having obtained the prestigious funding Startup Capital of the public agency for the competitiveness, Acció. This is a direct aid for emergent technologic start-ups in need of funding for the early stages of the business, for developing their products or services, and for validating the business model to reach the market. During this last year, they have strengthened their commitment and association with IGTP, where the project was born, and with the Germans Trias Hospital, which will permit completing the development of the project and perform clinical tests. They have been selected to participate in prestigious start-up national and international programs such as the EIT Health MedTech Bootcamp or the StartHealth. Recently, they have received 'Impact Business' award of the Ship2B Foundation.

Timely diagnosis, key to diagnose COPD

Chronic respiratory diseases affect 1-10 people worldwide and many of them are mis- or underdiagnosed due to the invisible nature of its slow progression. It is estimated that two thirds of diagnosed patients receive such diagnosis late, which is associated with a worse prognosis. As a result of the increase in air pollution, smoking, and population ageing, the burden of these diseases is continuously increasing.  

COPD displays an underdiagnosis rate of 75% and causes three million of deaths worldwide, which makes it the third major cause of death, after heart diseases and cerebrovascular accidents. COPD can cause a severe disability and lead to numerous hospitalizations, with enormous costs for patients and society. Early interventions are key to delay or stop disease progression and to avoid many of the complications that this disease can produce by means of a correct treatment and changes in life-style.

Breaz joins the 7 spin-offs that belong to the IGTP team: Biointaxis, Ahead Therapeutics, Aniling, Innovex Therapeutics, Time is Brain, Manremyc, and Nimble.