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GSK, Propeller Health Ink R&D Deal For Custom Respiratory Device

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

For better or worse, companies in seemingly every industry are starting to connect devices to the Internet, the idea being that data from the machines can provide fresh and useful insights.

One example is Propeller Health, which makes data-collecting devices that snap onto medication inhalers used by asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. Madison, WI-based Propeller says its system—which combines sensors, mobile apps, analytics, and individualized feedback for patients and their caregivers—can lower healthcare costs associated with respiratory conditions by helping patients and doctors better understand the diseases, predict attacks, and reduce hospitalizations.

This emerging area of the “Internet of Things” movement might not grab headlines as often as connected consumer devices like smart thermostats, but it’s starting to gain more traction and opportunities to prove its usefulness.

The latest example is a research and development partnership Propeller formed today with U.K. pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. Propeller will develop and manufacture a custom sensor for GSK’s Ellipta inhaler, which GSK will use in clinical studies of asthma and COPD patients.

The companies declined to share the deal’s financial terms, details of the clinical studies, or the timeline for developing the sensor device. If all goes well, GSK has the option to negotiate exclusive commercialization rights for the sensor for use with its marketed portfolio of respiratory medicines delivered via the Ellipta inhaler.

GSK will use Propeller’s sensor to automatically collect data on the inhaler’s usage, such as the date and time of each use, and transmit the information to a database for analysis by GSK researchers. The idea is to better understand patterns in patients’ adherence to treatment, and to perhaps more accurately track the safety, effectiveness, and potential cost savings of the medications GSK is testing.

“We continue to find new and better ways to conduct clinical trials by exploring novel, patient-centered outcomes through strategic collaborations,” said Dave Allen, GSK’s senior vice president of respiratory R&D, in a prepared statement. “Using innovative sensor technology to improve the quality of adherence data collected during our studies will advance our understanding of disease and inform our decision-making in the development of new medicines.”

The R&D agreement is the first between the two companies. It’s the second such deal Propeller has inked with a big pharmaceutical company, a spokeswoman says, following a partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop a custom sensor for the company’s Respimat inhaler.

Earlier this year, Propeller got FDA clearance to market its system for use with COPD medications delivered by the Respimat inhaler and asthma and COPD treatments administered through GSK’s Diskus inhaler. (The Diskus is not part of the new R&D partnership.)

Propeller said its devices are now compatible with most types of asthma and COPD inhalers.

Founded in 2010, the company has raised $23 million from investors including Safeguard Scientifics, The Social+Capital Partnership, Kapor Capital, the California HealthCare Foundation, Walgreen’s, and angel investors.