HealthTech Accelerator #6: PreTel’s name describes its focus on pre-term labor

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting the companies that are participating in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” sponsored by CO.LAB, Erlanger Health System and Unum. “Demo Day” is June 5. To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Roger Young describes his first goal with a start-up named PreTel as getting “a device out there that will tell a clinician whether a person is in false or true labor.” In fact, the goal drove the name of the company – “PreTerm Labor.”

“Pre-term birth is the number one cause of short-term morbidity and long-term disability in children,” according to the former Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of Biomedical Innovation at the University of Tennessee (UT) Health Science Center.

Young, who now lives in Portland, OR, joined with Marc Finch to found the start-up about three and one-half years ago. The latter is a resident of Atlanta and a biomedical engineer who has been involved in the medical device sector for 25 years. Finch is the start-up’s representative in the inaugural “HealthTech Accelerator” offered by Chattanooga’s CO.LAB in conjunction with Erlanger Health System and Unum.

As one might imagine based on Young’s professional background, the initial intellectual property behind PreTel was developed during his work at UT and earlier at the Vermont School of Medicine. In fact, PreTel has a licensing agreement with the UT Research Foundation.

“Nobody knows how labor works,” Young told us in a recent interview, adding, “Everyone thought the uterus worked like the heart. That’s clearly not the case.” Based on earlier laboratory work of his and others, he started researching on a new physiology model in 2013, finished tissue experiments in 2015, and had his model and methods to provide bedside patient monitoring published the next year.

“I think I have figured it out,” Young says, noting that “others have recently presented their data to confirm my model.”

With his background in medical devices, particularly those focused on women, Finch explains that “Roger’s work also brings a second, brand new clinical tool to maternal fetal care, giving doctors and nurses something else they have never had before. PreTel can answer “When labor is induced, how do they determine how much of the drug Oxytocin to administer?”

Young says the system will eliminate the guessing game which will, in turn, produce a win for hospitals, their doctors and, most important, the mothers-to-be.

PreTel has developed at wearable fetal monitoring device that has been deployed and is being tested at both Erlanger and the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

“We are collecting our data and developing our clinical solutions algorithms,” Finch says. “That’s what we will put in our dashboard in our user display module” that is currently in its alpha version.

What sorts of data will the dashboard report? Finch says one is a warning to avoid uterine tachysystole which can result in very significant consequences to the health of the child if these rapid contractions go undetected and persist.

The solution that PreTel plans to bring to market actually has three components. They are the software which Finch says is in its beta version, the wearable which has been finalized, and the dashboard which, as noted above, is at the alpha stage.

“We’re completing a Series A round of funding and have secured two NIH SBIRs,” Young says, referencing the Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health. One of the SBIRs involves the fetal monitor that separates false labor from true labor, and the data from that work will lead to PreTel filing its 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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