One of the innovative new companies we found at Exponential Medicine this year was Metamason, a CA-based startup automating the customization of patient-specific medical devices for OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). We had a chance to learn more about Metamason from Founder and CEO Les Karpas. Les’ background spans the domains of architecture, robotics, holography, and industrial design. With Metamason, Les has been able to leverage 10 years of experience working with 3D printers and using parametric algorithms to create complex structures.
Concept – The idea for Metamason grew out of a conversation Les had years ago with two friends, an ENT and an orthodontist. The friends were discussing a challenging patient who was failing to comply with wearing a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask used to treat OSA. With Les’ design and engineering background, he took the opportunity to delve deeper into the larger issues surrounding CPAP mask usage.
Problem – OSA affects 1 in 9 women and 1 in 4 men in the US. If left untreated, OSA causes partial airway obstruction during sleep leading to chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or congestive heart failure. The only proven, effective, long-term treatment for OSA is CPAP therapy, which requires a respiratory device to be worn on a patient’s face during sleep. However, given that conventional CPAP masks are uncomfortable, unattractive, and prone to leakage, CPAP therapy patients have a 50% quit rate after one year, one of the lowest compliance rates in all of medicine. Despite this gaping challenge, CPAP masks represent a $4B market.
Solution – Les and his team at Metamason have revolutionized the world of CPAP masks with a completely new approach to both the design and engineering. Their current products are Respere Freedom and Secure, a custom nasal pillow mask and frame. The new product design takes the traditional elephant tube that used to hang down the front of the patient’s body and moves it to the top of the patient’s head, away from their body and their partner. Air flows into the mask from the crown of the head in-line with the patient’s spinal axis of rotation.
The manufacturing process takes advantage of 3D scanning and printing technologies to deliver a completely customized product. First, patients are scanned either in the sleep center or at home. Patients conducting the scan at home receive a scanning kit which includes an iPad connected scanner along with the scanning app. Next, the mask is customized by both the patient and the provider. Metamason handles optimizing the design to ensure the mask will fit well on the patient’s facial anatomy and the nasal pillows provide an excellent pneumatic seal to prevent leakage. Finally, the mask is printed and delivered directly to the patient to begin use. Training and support are provided as a telemedicine service.
Metamason has a number of pending patents, including those relating to the parametric design algorithms used to create the masks.
Progress – Currently, Metamason’s products are undergoing the necessary testing for 510(k) clearance by the FDA. Once that is achieved, the company plans to move forward with clinical validation as well as continuing to build their cloud-based scanning and customization platform. The company is also raising a round of investment.