As a certified anesthetist, Tosan Ugbeye had an idea for a better anesthesia mask that would stop the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne contaminants in the operating room (OR).
“The COVID pandemic showed us the shortcomings of respiratory care,” he said, noting how acrylic boxes were used to provide a layer of protection between OR personnel and patients, while those with known or suspected COVID were intubated.
In April 2020, Ugbeye began working on the idea for a modular anesthesia mask that stayed on the mouth to contain potential contaminants. In February 2021, he founded Scopemed, a Bounce Innovation Hub Technology Incubator client.
“I started raising money, but it was difficult, since aerosol droplet containment was no longer top-of-mind as we were coming out of COVID,” he said.
Instead Ugbeye pivoted, with the help of Project Medtech, to develop the OFF-VENT, an innovative high flow nasal cannula that can be used to provide more efficient high flow oxygen therapy, a non-invasive and effective alternative to mechanical ventilation.
“High flow oxygen therapy is a revelation in respiratory care that improves air flow and slows down breathing for better gas exchange,” he said, noting its adoption was increased
during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid the increased risk of complications associated with
He also noted that the OFF-VENT was designed with modular connectors so it is compatible with any high flow oxygen system, and it can be used in any health care setting beyond the OR.
In 2022, Ugbeye was accepted into Bounce’s Technology Incubator where he has benefitted from the mentorship of Jack Hilton, Startup Advisor, and James Hilton, Senior Director, Entrepreneurial Services. He’s also had access to advice from other subject-matter experts and entrepreneurs in residence, Bryce Collison and Timothy Hinton, who were both very helpful in Scopemed’s development.
“The introduction to Bounce was a critical connection. I’ve received advice and mentorship from JumpStart, but the legal, marketing and HR services from Bounce, as well as the support in developing my business model, have been invaluable,” he said. “As a clinician, I have to shift to a business mindset and speak in ways that resonate with various stakeholders. That has been the biggest challenge.”
While he may be new to entrepreneurship, family members in his native Nigeria have had various businesses, so he has witnessed their motivation and drive.
“Building something out of nothing has lit a fire and the impetus to do something good,” he said.
He advises other entrepreneurs to commit to the process of customer discovery and to learn their customers’ pain points.
“Even if you think you know what customers want or need, ideas are just ideas. You have to workshop them,” he said.
He now has a prototype that is ready to be manufactured for clinical trials and estimates he is about a year away from having a product to take to market. The OFF-VENT high flow nasal canula will be trialed in two ways: during the patient journey from an emergency department to a patient floor or intensive care unit and in the endoscopy suite, where it can treat the obstructive sleep apnea that is often caused by the sedation used in endoscopy.
“It’s important to demonstrate efficacy,” he said.
Scopemed’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Shawn Iravanchy, PhD, will help make the transfer to large-scale manufacturing once the clinical trials are complete. This includes an electronic version of the mask that has the potential to replace traditional CPAP machines.
His team includes a clinical advisory board and a business advisory board, as well as leadership in a few critical fractional roles that are a big part of the company.
“There have been no innovations in anesthesia masks in the last decade and I’m excited about incorporating the lessons learned during the pandemic,” he said. “High flow oxygen therapy is an innovation that provides broad benefits and superior quality in respiratory care.”
To learn more about our Technology Incubator, please visit: Incubator | Bounce Innovation Hub (bouncehub.org).
About the author:
Jill Wodtley, APR, is a freelance writer and owner of Fine Point Public Relations and Advertising. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she develops and implements marketing communications, public relations and advertising initiatives for a variety of clients, ranging from health care and social service agencies to industrial/manufacturing firms.