Opko acquires early stage digital inhaler device co. to pair it with respiratory drugs

As pharmaceutical companies look for ways to add value to their drugs to solve problems like adherence, many see digital health as an important part of that strategy. Respiratory drug developer Opko Health (NYSE: OPK) has acquired an Israeli medical device startup, Inspiro Medical, with a digital dry powder inhaler under development, according to a […]

As pharmaceutical companies look for ways to add value to their drugs to solve problems like adherence, many see digital health as an important part of that strategy. Respiratory drug developer Opko Health (NYSE: OPK) has acquired an Israeli medical device startup, Inspiro Medical, with a digital dry powder inhaler under development, according to a company statement. The drug delivery acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, also reflects the growing interest in the Internet of Things space.

Inspiromatic has an internal microcontroller and flow sensor that monitors drug delivery. A micro-pump is designed to distribute drug particles without requiring forceful inhalation, according to the statement.

It also provides instant feedback to the patient with a green or red flasher light to indicate proper inhalation and a beeper after the dose has been delivered. For physicians,  [it] provides a built-in logger that stores patient use data for easy access and transmission by electronic devices such as smartphones.

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Among the applications Opko CEO Dr. Philip Frost sees for the device are with drugs to treat asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases. The company wants to pair the device with a respiratory drug in preclinical development.

In a phone interview with Les Funtleyder, director of strategic investments for Opko, said

“There are a lot of digital tools that seem to be vaporware, but this is real.

He added that in addition to drugs the company develops, the inhaler device could be used by other drug development companies as well. The company is still working out the regulatory pathway for the inhaler.

About 15 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COPD. These patients tend to be more vulnerable to infections and hospitals have been working to reduce readmissions within 30 days of discharge in order to avoid penalties from CMS. A device that can provide more data to physicians could help them get a better sense of patients who need more attention.

For Israeli accelertor Trendlines, the M&A deal marked its third exit in eight months. In September, Baxter acquired FlowSense, a device to help clinicians remotely monitor urine output. In the same month, Teleflex acquired InnoLap Surgical, a laparoscopic surgical device designed to eliminate scarring.

The device also fits into the Internet of Things trend, an area that pharmaceutical companies are exploring but where medical device companies are more established.