Zephyr Sleep Technologies
Zephyr Sleep Technologies manufactures medical equipment and devices related to sleep medicine. A brainchild of the University of Calgary, the technology is used to perform diagnostic testing that determines the need of oral appliance therapy to treat obstructed sleep apnea.
Obstructed sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea where the upper airway is obstructed. On average, those living with obstructed sleep apnea will stop breathing more than 15 times an hour during stage three sleep. Statistics show that more than 20 per cent of Americans suffer from obstructed sleep apnea, and as a result it has created a growing demand for oral appliance sleep products.
In 2010, Paul Cataford and sleep technician Dr. John Remmers founded Zephyr Sleep Technologies with the goal of helping people sleep better. Serving as Chief Medical Officer of Zephyr Sleep Technologies, Remmers is a highly regarded physician in the sleep medical community and an early pioneer of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) technology. Often in the form of respiratory masks, CPAP technology uses mild air pressure to open obstructed airways.
CPAP technology was an initial solution for sleep apnea and breathing issues. Modern oral appliance therapy is described as being similar to a mouthguard in that it holds the lower jaw in a neutral or a slightly protruded position, treating obstructed sleep apnea by holding open the breathing airways.
Cataford, CEO of Zephyr Sleep Technologies, spoke with The Canadian Business Journal about the launch of the company as well as its plans toward the future.
“We studied some of the technologies that were developed at the University of Calgary and in the Calgary sleep clinic environment and we rolled them into this company,” Cataford detailed. “We finished the industrial design and got our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance in March 2012 and then started shipping product into the United States. We also hope to be able to sell in Canada by the end of this year.”
Zephyr Sleep Technologies has cornered the market in that no other competitive diagnostic medical device exists in the marketplace, plus the company holds a robust intellectual property portfolio giving it added space in its area of expertise.
Zephyr Sleep Technologies is also developing a second product line, currently under the code name NOTUS. This technology, which involves a product that is more commonly used by a sleep technician in a sleep lab, will shift this form of technology to the bedside. Health Canada has approved a NOTUS clinical trial period to demonstrate the safety of the technology. Zephyr Sleep Technologies plans to unveil NOTUS in May 2014.
“Our goal is to get 20 to 25 per cent market penetration in the sleep clinic environment in North America,” Cataford said. “We also hope to have the NOTUS product cleared by the FDA and launched in North America. Users could sign out the device from a drug store or sleep clinic, and we hope to have 50 per cent penetration in that marketplace in five years.”
Like many startup companies, Zephyr Sleep Technologies faces the challenge of raising organizational capital. The company has raised about $3.7 million in angel investment capital from its founders and a supportive investor base.
Securing greater equity will then allow the company to further develop its products, build up its sales force, and its support network, in addition to added investment to formally launch its NOTUS product lineup, from its initial clinical trial stage through to FDA clearance, manufacturing, and its entrance into the marketplace. The company has projected $4 million in revenue for 2014.
“Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper and various governments are saying, ‘How do we get more innovation to market?’, and I think this is a pretty good case study for that,” Cataford concluded. “As a university spinoff company, it reflects something that has come out of our innovation system.
“For emerging businesses, healthcare is a very important segment, particularly as we grow and expand. We think that we are a feel-good story in that not only will we make a significant return for our investors, but we are also treating people with a debilitating illness in a more effective way.”