If the respiratory muscle is weakened, this can cause life-threatening complications. Using electromagnetic fields, Stimit can stimulate the diaphragm and strengthen the respiratory muscle. The prototype was made in part using the infrastructure and expertise of Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIP BB).
Interview: Leila Chaabane from Marketing Communications at SIP BB with Ronja Bruhn, CEO and Co-Founder of Stimit AG
Your homepage says: “Activate the Lung”. Stimit is designed to do just that – activate lung function. Why and how does it work?
There are millions of people whose diaphragm has suddenly lost a huge amount of strength during artificial respiration and needs to be maintained or built up so that the patient can breathe independently again. This is exactly what Stimit is designed to achieve through stimulation of the diaphragm with electromagnetic fields.
Based on the available data, we expect that even a few minutes a day will be enough for our non-invasive solution to strengthen the respiratory muscle. In this way, we aim to shorten hospital stays, prevent life-threatening complications and even save lives.
What does the name Stimit mean?
Stimit is short for “stimulate it”. “It” being the diaphragm, so it means “stimulate the diaphragm”.
You have a workspace at SIP BB. How did that come about?
Our business coach, Dr. Heiko Visarius from VISARTIS Healthcare GmbH, was the one who told us about the huge medtech start-up scene and excellent infrastructure at SIP BB.
Then, after we got to know Raniero Pittini, Head of Swiss Medtech Center at SIP BB, obtained some insights into in-house prototyping and met experts such as Felix Kunz, CEO of SIP BB, it became clear that SIP BB was the place for us. Of course, the proximity to the Inselspital (University Hospital) and to the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH was also a decisive factor in the decision.
Do you also make use of the infrastructure and expertise of SIP BB?
Yes, definitely. It’s thanks to the internal expertise and infrastructure of SIP BB that we have been able to produce our prototypes. They are currently here on the third floor.
From time to time, we also rely on the expertise and resources of SIP BB for research, patent-related queries and other clarifications.
Stimit was only founded in 2018, but you hope to have your products on the market by 2021. That is quite an ambitious goal, isn’t it?
Well, we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we are following a targeted partnership strategy and are working with reliable suppliers of existing components. This means we will be able to meet the regulatory requirements for medical devices (MDR) and obtain CE marketing approval far quicker than usual. Stimit is taking a brand-new approach to the process, aiming to get compliant products on the market in a particular market segment as quickly as possible.
This means that we are not doing any fundamental research. Instead, we are focusing on new applications based on existing foundation technologies.
It sounds simple, but it really isn’t.
Before we even begin, we have to have an excellent understanding of the needs of users – that means patients, physicians and nurses. Very early on, it became clear that there was a huge gap between what the user wants/needs, and what current technology can deliver. It’s a gap that leaves a lot of room for innovation! Stimit AG is working on these challenges. We adapt existing technologies to the needs of users, and make new inventions in the process.
Your application to Innosuisse (Swiss Innovation Agency) has been approved. Many start-ups dream of this. Can you tell us about the approach you took to achieve it?
It was an incredibly exciting stage for us, with many sleepless nights. Just a few days before we were due to submit the application, we got to know Raniero Pittini. Thanks to his enormous expertise, we found the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of electromagnetism. Then the four of us finalized the application together, working nights and at the weekend to get it done. A few power naps were all the sleep we could fit in.
On November 11, 2018, we submitted the application, and we received the approval one day before Christmas. That made for a wonderful festive season and a particularly great New Year’s Eve.
And what are your next steps?
We are following a portfolio-based strategy. We want to prove that our first product provides clinical added value for patients and convince users of this. At the same time, however, we are already doing more product development so that we can reach as many patients as possible worldwide with a complete system.
Other people say “Use it or lose it!”, but we say “Pace it and keep it!”.