San Antonio Startup Making Noise-Reducing Tech for Babies Adds $1.3M

San Antonio—Invictus Medical, which develops products for newborn babies, and says it added almost $1.3 million in new funding to continue developing a device that aims to help create a quiet, peaceful environment for infants in neonatal intensive care units.

Invictus plans to use the new funding to bring the technology to the point of commercialization after further testing of the device, which detects sound waves from ambient noise and generates an oppositional wave of its own to change the noise that would come into an incubator, according to Invictus CEO George Hutchinson. The company also sells a separate device, the GelShield, which is a headband that is placed around a newborn baby’s head to prevent pressure from building on the skull.

The company has been developing the noise attenuation technology since 2015, when it received the first of two grants from the National Science Foundation that are collectively worth about $1.1 million.

In neonatal units, excessive noise can be harmful to the babies that are being cared for, even potentially causing cognitive defects, according to Hutchinson and the company’s NSF application. Isolating the infants doesn’t work because they need communication from parents or caregivers to develop. You can’t quite stick earmuffs on the newborn infants, either, because their soft heads can be impacted by pressure (hence the company’s Gelshield product). And even though nurses and doctors try to limit excess noise in the hospital, it’s not entirely possible to get rid of it all, Hutchinson says.

“The last thing they want to do is hurt the children they’re caring for,” he says. “If there’s an opportunity to implement something that, without contacting the baby, will make it demonstrably quieter inside the incubator, they’re pretty excited about that.”

While there have been many advances in neonatal intensive care, which have helped keep very young premature babies alive, noise reduction hasn’t been achieved, Hutchinson says. The company still has to determine whether it will need FDA approval for the device but it hopes to have a product in the market in 2019, he says.

Invictus was founded in 2012 by a team of engineering and business students at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It received FDA clearance allowing it to sell the Gelshield device in 2015.

In 2016, Invictus said it was developing a new activity sensor that it planned to incorporate in the Gelshield, which would help monitor the baby in the incubator. Hutchinson says Invictus is collaborating with two strategic partners on two sensors related to the Gelshield, and said he can’t name the partners yet.

Hutchinson was hired as the company’s chief technology officer in 2014, having previously worked at San Antonio medical device company Kinetic Concepts (a part of Acelity). He became CEO about a year ago, taking over from interim CEO Dennis Kane, who is a board member. Invictus has raised about $8.9 million in funding from high net worth individuals, Hutchinson said, who provided the most recent funding round of convertible notes.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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