Profusa was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Research Office to develop implantable biosensors for the simultaneous, continuous monitoring of multiple body chemistries. Aimed at providing real-time monitoring of a combat soldier's health status to improve mission efficiency, the award supports further development of the company's biosensor technology for real-time detection of the body's chemical constituents.
“Profusa's vision is to replace a point-in-time chemistry panel that measures multiple biomarkers, such as oxygen, glucose, lactate, urea, and ions with a biosensor that provides a continuous stream of wireless data,” said Ben Hwang, Ph.D., Profusa's chairman and CEO.
Profusa's technology overcomes the largest hurdle in long-term use of biosensors in the body—the foreign body response—according to Dr. Hwang. Placed just under the skin with a specially designed injector, each tiny biosensor is a flexible fiber 2 mm to 5 mm long and 200–500 μm in diameter. Rather than being isolated from the body, Profusa's biosensors work fully integrated within the body's tissue, without any metal device or electronics, overcoming the effects of the foreign body response for more than 1 year, added Dr. Hwang.
Each biosensor is comprised of a bioengineered smart hydrogel (similar to contact lens material) forming a porous, tissue-integrating scaffold that induces capillary and cellular in-growth from surrounding tissue. A unique property of the smart gel is its ability to luminesce upon exposure to light in proportion to the concentration of a chemical such as oxygen, glucose, or other biomarker, explained Natalie Wisniewski, Ph.D., the principal investigator leading the grant work and Profusa's co-founder and chief technology officer.
“Long-lasting, implantable biosensors that provide continuous measurement of multiple body chemistries will enable monitoring of a soldier's metabolic and dehydration status, ion panels, blood gases, and other key physiological biomarkers,” noted Dr. Wisniewski. “Our ongoing program with DARPA builds on Profusa's tissue-integrating sensor that overcomes the foreign body response and serves as a technology platform for the detection of multiple analytes.”
Profusa's first medical product, the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, is a single-biomarker sensor designed to measure oxygen. In contrast to blood oxygen reported by other devices, the system incorporates the only technology that can monitor local tissue oxygen. When applied to the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD), it prompts the clinician to provide therapeutic action to ensure tissue oxygen levels persist throughout the treatment and healing process.
Pending a CE Mark, the system is slated to be available in Europe in 2016 for use by vascular surgeons, wound-healing specialists, and other licensed healthcare providers who may benefit in monitoring local tissue oxygen.