Respira Raises $2.8M to Develop New Sound Wave Lung-function Device

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by Marisa Wexler MS |

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Respira Labs has raised $2.8 million to help develop a wearable device that uses sound to evaluate lung function in people with respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and COVID-19.

“We’re a U.S.-based startup excited to be making strides in a highly competitive space and are grateful to the organizations who care deeply about our mission and technology,” Maria Artunduaga, MD, Respira’s founder and CEO, said in a press release.

Artunduaga was inspired to launch the California-based company by her grandmother, who had COPD and died as a result of an exacerbation, or an episode of sudden symptom worsening.

The company’s device will use acoustic resonance to assess lung function. Acoustic resonance occurs when a material vibrates in response to sound waves of a specific frequency that match its own natural vibration. This is the same principle that lets a guitarist tune his instrument, and is also how a singer can use her voice to shatter a crystal wine glass.

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Respira’s device would use these same principles to measure the amount of air inside the lungs and other aspects of lung function and health. By alerting patients to anomalies, the device may enable timely treatments, avoid hospitalizations, and give patients more control over their health.

The device is named Sylvee, after Artunduaga’s grandmother.

“We have the potential to help improve the lives of millions of people living with lung issues around the world,” Artunduaga said. “Early detection is key and our technology will help people identify problems earlier to avoid dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.”

The device is currently in prototype. Respira is expecting to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next two years. Feasibility studies are being conducted in Florida and California.

The funding includes $1 million in pre-seed money by Zentynel Frontier Investments, as well as grants from government organizations.

“We are convinced that no one else is trying to tackle the monitoring of lung function, from an acoustic point of view, with the sophistication and rigor with which Respira Lab is doing it. This opens the door to a huge market that will continue to grow in a post-COVID world,” said Cristian Hernández-Cuevas, a partner at Zentynel.

The funding is particularly noteworthy since Artunduaga is Latina (she was born in Colombia), and funding to startups led by Latin Americans has stalled in recent years. Despite being one of the fastest-growing small business segments in the U.S., Latin American business owners received only 2.1% of overall startup investments in 2021.

“For us, it is an honor to be able to invest in companies with the vision and leadership that Respira Labs has. Its Latin American background and subject-matter expertise are a perfect match for us,” Hernández-Cuevas said.