San Diego Business Journal

The West Health Institute’s new incubator is bringing in its first resident company, Sense4Baby Inc., a recently formed company of four employees that is licensing the institute’s Sense4Baby technology for a wireless fetal monitor.

In what is the La Jolla institute’s first technology spinout to a startup, the wireless fetal monitor could be used to monitor high-risk pregnancies in remote clinics.

Rob Matthews, chief technology officer for West Health, said the institute’s objective is to develop innovations that will lower the costs of health care, and Sense4Baby allows expectant mothers to avoid expensive hospital visits.

“Sense4Baby has been designed to enable a new model of care that can potentially bring needed care to the expectant mother at a remote clinical setting, as opposed to requiring her to go through the frequent travel and expense of visiting a doctor at a central hospital,” Matthews said.

High-risk pregnancies require a substantial amount of monitoring and physician attention, including recommended weekly visits to a doctor’s office for a non-stress test that monitors the fetal heart rate and mother’s contraction activity. Sense4Baby is designed to better facilitate the clinical management of the high-risk mother while minimizing the travel, inconvenience and cost of traditional office visits. Research by the institute estimates technologies such as the Sense4Baby system could result in nearly $1.5 billion in annual savings across the U.S. from better birth outcomes, reduced equipment costs, more efficient use of hospital facilities and reduced direct costs to expectant mothers.

The Sense4Baby system is a portable wireless fetal monitor that uses custom sensors, software and hardware connected to a cellular network, so maternal and fetal monitoring of pregnancies can be performed remotely. Designed from the ground up over several years at the institute, Sense4Baby’s sensor, radio crystals, wireless chip, motherboard, software and hardware were developed in-house to create a more cost-effective model of care for high-risk pregnancies.

The institute is involved in an ongoing pilot research study in Mexico with the Carlos Slim Health Institute, deploying Sense4Baby prototypes in the Yucatan region to study the impact of this technology on potentially reducing the cost of health care delivery, as well as to better understand its clinical benefits for a high-risk population. Matthews said the study launched in January is a follow-on study to clinical experiences at a Scripps Health clinic “to make sure it behaves in the way it is expected to.”

Matthews said the device requires Food and Drug Administration clearance and typical similar devices take about one to two years to commercialize.