5 December 2023
At any point in time, one in 10 people worldwide is experiencing the distressing effects of gastric dysfunction. From pain, bloating and vomiting, to difficult bowel movements and body weight changes, symptoms are varied and can be both mild and debilitating
There are plenty of promise-heavy products on the market, with everything from broths to supplements and teas all claiming to ease symptoms. It’s a minefield, but receiving a medical diagnosis isn’t generally much easier. Tests can be costly and invasive (think endoscopies), and even when non-invasive imaging tools are used, results are often inconclusive.
The Auckland-based company’s invention uses an adhesive patch of sensors to pick up on faint electric signals emitted by a patient’s stomach as they digest a meal. Over five hours, a patient records their symptoms in an app on an iPad. Both the electronic readings and the patient’s commentary are analysed by advanced algorithms, turned into a clinical report and presented via the cloud. Then, personalised healthcare can begin.
Co-founder and CEO Greg O’Grady is a business-minded entrepreneur, but he’s also a professor of surgery at Auckland University. Alimetry was born in 2019 off the back of a decade of research at the university. O’Grady and his collaborators were inspired to kickstart the project after seeing flaws in traditional methods of diagnosing gastric disorders. Endoscopies and colonoscopies look at the structure of the gut, but fail to provide intel on how it functions.
When Alimetry CTO and co-founder Armen Gharibans, a biomedical engineer, developed a prototype that worked, the team knew it had global potential.O’Grady left surgery and put his all into the new venture.
Long-term, Alimetry’s goal is for their wearable device to do for gastroenterology what ECG (electrocardiograph) testing has done for cardiology.
While the heart’s electric currents are much stronger than the gut’s, the premise of Gastric Alimetry is the same.
But unlike an ECG, that uses a small number of electrodes to monitor the heart’s electric activity, Gastric Alimetry is wireless and high-resolution. The array is a stretchy band with inbuilt electronic sensors. It’s comfortortable for the patient, even allowing them to take rest breaks with ease. Patients can even watch their favourite movie or read a book – a rare treat in a clinical setting.
Alimetry’s contribution to both technology and gastroenterology is being recognised. The company has won a multitude of awards, including three at the 2022 NZ Hi-Tech Awards and the Breakthrough Project Award at the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards. But it’s the tick of approval from notoriously competitive markets such as the US – having a healthcare industry worth more than 4 trillion USD – that speaks volumes for the company’s ability to bring their technology to the world.
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