New breathing device for COVID-19 patients, co-developed by a cardiologist, gains key patent

SaiOx, a Tucson, Arizona-based technology startup, has received a patent from the U.S. Patent Office for its new respiratory assist device aimed at assisting COVID-19 patients.

The device, Hespiro, delivers both helium and oxygen to the user while capturing exhaled gas in a closed-off “rebreather” system. It was developed by Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, a University of Arizona (UA) pulmonologist, and Marvin J. Slepian, MD, a cardiologist at the UA College of Medicine.

“By having a closed-circuit system with a mask that covers both nose and mouth, clinicians can give people assistance immediately, and do so with less chance of infection,” Parthasarathy said in a prepared statement.

Though the device was originally intended to help asthma and pulmonary disease patients, SaiOx changed gears once the COVID-19 pandemic began, hoping to get the technology in the hands of clinicians as quickly as possible.

“We’re downshifting to make a device that can be produced as a tool for front-line clinicians,” , SaiOx CEO Manny Teran said in the same statement. “We can build this device quickly because of how rapidly our team mobilized around an elegant design that can be manufactured locally.”