The following was provided while participating in the 2023 Destination Startup® Showcase.
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What We Do
LumenAstra is commercializing a CU patent for a wearable, non-invasive sensor measuring core body temperature several centimeters below the skin with dramatic impact on cardiac surgery, brain protection after stroke and brain injury, increase efficacy of chemo-therapy by targeted tumor warming, and a new generation of consumer thermometers.
Affiliated Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Have we formed a company? Yes
Funding: Grant Funding, Direct/Indirect University Support, Angel Funding (including Self or Friends/Family)
Our Company and the Problem We Are Trying To Solve
LumenAstra is commercializing a strong, recently issued patent (2019) from the University of Colorado for a wearable, non-invasive core body thermometer that measures deep tissue temperature (e.g., brain, heart, muscle, arterial, etc.) several centimeters beneath the skin wherever placed. Currently, all methods for measuring deep and important internal body temperatures are highly invasive such as temperature catheters with limited reach or sensor tipped needles painfully inserted through the skin. Our first target application is directly measuring real-time brain temperature from a tiny wearable sensor placed on the forehead during cardio bypass surgeries requiring deep cooling of the brain before circulation is stopped for the repair. Unlike current methods of measuring nasal or bladder temperature surrogates for the brain, our sensor allows the surgeon to know EXACTLY when the brain has reached protection temperature so they can immediately start the surgery, make the repair and restart circulation reducing the mortality rate by 20% and reducing risk of brain injury by minimizing the time-at-cold. Direct, non-invasive measurement of tumor temperatures (e.g. pancreatic and liver) allows a proven technique of precisely controlling the heating of tumors to increase efficacy of chemo- and radiation by 20-40%. Today, multiple sensor tipped needles must be interred through the skin into the tumor which has prevented this powerful technique from gaining wide adoption. $1.5M of deep-tech grants from the NSF, and State of Colorado have enabled us to demonstrate the science and iterate to a new prototype that is ready for patient studies in the next months.
Our Go-to-Market Strategy
Our initial beachhead is a highly targeted, very high margin, $36M niche of aortic dissection surgery with a terrific value proposition of lowering the current 17% mortality rate by up to 20%. This segment will allow us to reach our important $1M, $2M and $4M revenue milestones while being endorsed by surgeons and added to hospital purchasing systems. This will enable us to immediately follow-on with the much broader $500M "patient cooling" market of monitoring brain temperature in ICUs in the critical 24-hours after cardiac arrest, stroke, or brain trauma minimizing additional brain damage. Our third tier will be "patient warming" specifically focused on hyperthermia, or targeted warming of solid tumors to increase chemo- and radiation co-therapy efficacy by 20-40%. This is potentially a $2B available market. And finally, we have a letter of intent with the largest consumer thermometry company for a next generation thermometer aimed at the $1.2B home health and wellness market. This layered sequence of market targets will be approached with a white-labeling distribution approach with partners such as Medtronic, GE Medical, Philips, and Massimo in the clinical patient monitoring space or with bypass pump/cooling solutions offered by Terumo, Belmont, BD Medical, Medtronic, etc. For clinical applications our price of $400 to $1000 per device (depending on application and specs) creates an opportunity for easy re-supply in surgical and ICU units and at that price point, hospitals will discard and re-purchase rather than implement a sanitizing protocol, creating a secondary resale market in developing countries.
How We Will Generate Revenue
We are designing a "core temperature sensor component" which we can build into a stand-alone wearable device and sold white-labeled through partners; or the component sold to OEMs for bundling with other sensors into wearable sensor-packs (e.g. blood pressure, pulse-ox, motion, solutions etc). We will white-label stand alone devices to other companies offering similar medical devices or patient monitoring solutions (e.g. Medtronic, Philips, GE Medical, Masimo). Or our component version will be bundled into clinical, athletic, consumer, and military "wellness and condition monitoring" packages and sold to their customers and distribution channels. At our price points in the clinical markets, we expect a single-use, repetitive re-use sales model, creating a secondary market for disposed units. Overall, we don't expect to have our own direct sales team, rather, all our sales will be via through business development relationships with medical device companies or distribution channels selling medical devices to hospitals, surgical units, and clinics. The only way we would enter the consumer market will be thorough an OEM or distribution arrangement with an established consumer brand(s) to keep market entry costs manageable and faster, broader market adoption at the expense of margin, which will be lower than our clinical markets with very strong Price-to-Value opportunities.
How We Will Benefit From Destination Startup®
Initially, we have been a VERY early-stage, no-revenue company too early for easily attracting angel or VC funding. But as a deep-tech company with a novel solution with societal impact potential, we were attractive to high-risk high-reward grant source such as the National Science Foundation and the State of Colorado Advanced Industries funding from OEDIT (Colorado Office of Economic Development). We were successful in raising $1.5M in non-dilutive grants including the Lab Venture Challenge ($125K + $50K follow-on), a $360K NSF Open Research Grant, a $250K NSF PFI Grant, a $256K NSF SBIR Phase I grant, the OEDIT $250K matching advanced industries grant and we are well positioned to be awarded the NSF SBIR Phase II of $1M for 2023-2024. With the endorsement of these grants and a letter of intent from the largest consumer home thermometer company, we are starting to also look for $1M of Angel funding and later $5M and $10M VC A&B rounds as we scale to manufacturing. We feel the Destination Startup vehicle is perfect for showcasing the progress we have shown both technically and commercially to support our next round of funding. Even though early, this is a perfect time to begin conversations with VCs who generally like to have a several month relationship with companies before joining their funding.
We have a very strong founding team, 3-person board with an outside director, and growing a dynamic advisory board that is changing as the stage and challenges of our company evolve. Co-Founders Jim Pollock, CEO, is an MIT alumni involved in 8 early-stage/startup companies with 5 exits since his formative years at Hewlett-Packard. He has strong business development, product management, and product strategy experience complementing his engineering base. Dr. Zoya Popovic, CTO, is a Caltech PhD, Distinguished Professor at CU, IEEE Fellow, recent inductee into the National Academy of Engineers and Lockheed-Martin Endowed Chair of her globally recognized CU Radio Frequency Lab. Dr. Popovic is the inventor of our technology, leading the transition out of the lab and will be involved with advanced research for future products after our beachhead. Walter Wong, VP Mfg, brings combined engineering, marketing and extensive manufacturing experience to LumenAstra from his 20 years as Director of Engineering at Seagate and 10 years consulting in advanced medical devices. Walter is named on 35 patents and a member of the Seagate Patent Hall of Fame. Boards Lou Faust is an outside board member with 10 years as Director of Global Operations for Soloman Brothers and multiple large company and startup CEO-roles. Dr. John Mehall is on our formal Advisory Board and is the CEO of Cardio & Thoracic Surgery Assoc where his team performs over 150 aortic repair surgeries per year through Centura Health. He also has started 7 healthcare companies selling 5 of them.