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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Local healthtech wearable enters human trials to become first-of-its-kind product in market

Health Industry Hub | November 14, 2022 |

MedTech News: Human clinical trials of a Queensland-invented microwearable sensor is set to begin at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) after the latest successful fundraising round of $5 million for pioneering healthtech company, WearOptimo.

WearOptimo’s hydration monitor will be the first microwearable product to market and it has wide applications across aged care, mining, construction and sport where dehydration can have a major impact but is notoriously difficult to monitor.

“It’s predominantly Queensland investment backing forward-thinking Queensland technology, which is brilliant,’’ WearOptimo CEO and founder Professor Mark Kendall said.

WearOptimo is pioneering a HealthTech platform that uses a range of wearable sensors with microscopic electrodes that painlessly penetrate the outer skin layer to measure biomarkers in real time and detect conditions from dehydration to cardiac arrest. For users, the sticker-like sensor feels like one that sits on the skin, but the information it harvests is worlds apart.

“When we think of today’s wearables, we typically think of something like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit,” Professor Kendall said

“However, from a health point of view, they are extremely simple and limited because of their inability to safely access key signals within the skin. The skin is an amazing barrier. While doing its job, it blocks the bulk of the signals today’s typical wearables are trying to measure. Our solution will overcome this constraint and open up next generation insights from a wearables perspective.”

Instead of sitting on the skin’s surface, micro-electrodes on WearOptimo’s next-generation wearables reach a hair’s width into the epidermis, to tap into biomarkers that surface-based products can’t measure. They have the potential to replace frequent blood tests and invasive implantable monitors.

WearOptimo has been working with Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) experts in ACT, Queensland and Victoria over a number of years to develop the sensor’s platform architecture, utilising a plethora of cleanroom-based nanofabrication techniques.

ANFF CEO, Jane Fitzpatrick, stated “We are so excited to see another example of what can happen when great ideas happen in the supportive ecosystem that Australia can provide. The provision of world leading, open access infrastructure is such a crucial part of this landscape to assist companies developing deep tech.”

Professor Kendall said along with human trials of the hydration monitor, the new funding would also support continued development of a sensor to aid early detection of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

“WearOptimo focuses on areas where time matters – where a rapid intervention can make a massive difference. When we get dehydrated our brain shrinks,’’ Professor Kendall explains. “If you’re only three per cent dehydrated, it has effectively the same effect on your cognitive function as having a blood alcohol reading of .08. So, if you’re driving a 300-tonne coal hauler and are the equivalent of being drunk, then that’s a serious issue we want to help minimise in the workplace.”

At present, there are few practical ways to monitor hydration, save the imprecise method of asking people to monitor the colour of their urine. In aged care, it becomes even more difficult.

“The sensors in our body that tell us that we need to drink, deteriorate as we get older. It starts at age 49 and gets worse over time,” Professor Kendall said.

“Dehydration can cause dizziness, falls, infections, and seizures. It’s estimated about 25 per cent of aged care hospitalisations are related to poor hydration management. There’s a massive area of unmet need.”

With the company headquartered in Woolloongabba, not far from the 2032 Olympic Stadium, sporting applications for the hydration microwearable are front of mind too.

“When you think about the push for sports tech, there’s all manner of layers to how we can help athletes, probably elite athletes in the first instance before rolling it out more broadly. But at its core, the vision for WearOptimo is to develop affordable wearable technology that takes early-intervention, precision medicine to many people,” Professor Kendall said.

This latest round of funding for WearOptimo follows the original and ongoing strategic and investment support from the Australian National University, grants from the Federal and Queensland governments and a strategic investment and partnership with Aspen Medical to aid distribution of the Hydration microwearables.

The company is currently working on plans for a pilot plant in Queensland where it can scale up to produce up to 20 million microwearables. Further raisings are expected to continue to take the products to market.

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