How a local company is developing a skin patch that can detect heart attacks

Brisbane biotech company WearOptimo has struck a multi-million deal with Aspen Medical to help develop a device the size of a small sticker on the skin that could detect heart attacks well before they happen.


Mar 16, 2022, updated Mar 16, 2022
WearOptimo founder and CEO Professor Mark Kendall. (Image: Supplied)

WearOptimo founder and CEO Professor Mark Kendall. (Image: Supplied)

The plan is that within a decade the technology could be produced in Brisbane with a facility potentially making up to 20 million devices a year for a total addressable market of about $200 billion.

The company has already received millions in funding from the Australian National University as well as State and Federal government grants and is now in a series B fund raising for more.

“We are under no illusions about the type of capital we need so we are in discussions with investors to come alongside and join us in the fundraising we are doing at this point,’’ founder and chief executive Professor Mark Kendall said.

He said the motivation for the device came from two distinct events: some relatives suffering a heart attack and the poor treatment and processes they went through and the release of the Apple Watch.

“So essentially the concept for micro wearables came into my mind through an observation of when the Apple Watch came out in 2015. I could see there was going to be an explosion of micro wearables for precision medicine,’’ he told In Queensland

“And I could see the class of wearables like the Apple Watch was entirely inhibited by the amazing barrier function of the skin. You will never get access to the signals that we really care about.

“That was where I knew that with my knowledge of skin physiology and medical devices that there was an alternative way forward. You just develop an instinct over time. It’s hard to think where it comes from. The thinking just happens.

“The thing about it is if you can detect the early onset of a heart attack, even before you can feel it happening the intervention could be as simple as taking an aspirin.

“It is not as though the treatment doesn’t exist, it’s just that you don’t have the warning to deploy it.

“By the time you are at the deep end of the heart attack the treatment won’t work. The window has passed.’’

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Before WearOptimo can develop the product and launch on the market for the monitoring of heart attacks, it has an equally big market in monitoring dehydration, a major issue in workplaces like mining. It could enter that market within a few years.

“There is a massive unmet need and current approaches are extremely rudimentary,’’ Kendall said.

“Hydration is a major issue. If you are only 3 per cent dehydrated it has the equivalent effect on your brain function over being over the limit.

“If you are driving a 300 tonne coal hauler that affect on your cognitive function is a big issue and across the board in the mining sector.’’

Kendall described the investment from Aspen as a significant commercial partnership and major step in WearOptimo’s journey to accelerate the development of its product launch, and gain access to key markets. 

“The partnership with Aspen also provided WearOptimo with the ability to test and refine its product and ensure appropriate take up by the markets.

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