Collaboration leads to better asthma management

Medicine and medico technology Health and diseases Computer calculations

The inclusion of researchers from DTU Health Tech in a start-up company brings in new knowledge and competences, and drives product development forward.

Up to 70% of persons with asthma use their inhaler incorrectly. This means that they do not get the full benefit of the medication and may experience problems managing their condition because the medicine does not end up in the right place in their lungs.

The start-up company Sonohaler has developed a device to overcome this challenge. A small cap is attached to the inhaler and it makes a sound when it is used. The sound is recorded by an app on the subject’s mobile phone to evaluate the inhalation performance. Furthermore, the medical doctor can follow and monitor the subject remotely through a related web interface.

Sonohaler, which was established in 2018, needed competencies within data science to develop their product further. They entered into the now concluded Copenhagen Healthtech Solution project, where small and medium sized companies could participate in innovation projects to get support for concept or product development.

"We would be very interested in further collaboration. This experience has moved Sonohaler’s product development forward and we see great possibilities in collaborating with academia."
Adam Bohr, Co-founder of Sonohaler

Data science competencies boosted product development

Co-founder of Sonohaler Adam Bohr explains: “We needed someone with competencies in data science to develop an algorithm to process the sound or the signals from the cap to measure the inhalation performance. Our collaboration with Associate Professor Sadasivan Puthusserypady and Research Assistant Søren Hjøllund Jensen from DTU was a great match.”

“Søren worked with us full-time in the company for the duration of the project, and with his competencies in data science and signal processing, we reached an optimal point of departure for further optimization following the end of the project. This means that we now have a more professional prototype ready for our upcoming clinical tests in collaboration with a major asthma organization in the United States prior to an application for regulatory approval”, Adam Bohr says.

New input to academia

The collaboration also brings learnings and new input to the academic partner. “The enormous advancement in technology and data science during the past couple of decades have revolutionized the way technology has been exploited in many fields and health is one of the most benefited. Signal processing plays a significant role in innovating technologies to design, implement, and improve the efficiency of health solutions. The project with Sonohaler is a real example of translational research where we applied advanced signal processing algorithms, like machine/deep learning to improve the inhaler design. It was indeed a pleasing experience working with the entire team”, Associate Professor Sadasivan Puthusserypady says.

Personal learnings

Another positive outcome of the collaboration was a more personal one. For Research Assistant Søren Hjøllund Jensen the close collaboration with Sonohaler gave him valuable experience with start-up life - a work environment very different from the academic world at DTU.

“I spent most days in the company, and talking to my colleagues and other start-ups that were sharing the office space, gave me great insights into what it is like to establish your own business. My task was to train a machine learning model, which processes sound input and tells the user how many litres of air is inhaled per minute. It was very exciting and rewarding as a researcher to be able to test your ideas on the spot in a commercial setting. If you get an idea for something there is very short from idea to action in a small company. You can quickly get a lot of responsibility, so it is hard work but also fun to be part of,” Søren Hjøllund Jensen states.

When asked if Sonohaler would enter into a similar collaboration with DTU, Adam Bohr concludes, “Yes, we would be very interested in further collaboration. This experience has moved Sonohaler’s product development forward and we see great possibilities in collaborating with academia.”