Sleep apnoea is a serious medical condition that affects about 10% of the global population. However, a recent collaboration between Romar Engineering and BioAnalytics could offer some relief to sufferers.

The Federal Government recently released a report called ‘Bedtime Reading’, in which it was estimated that sleep apnoea costs the Australian economy $26bn annually due to lost productivity, accidents and shorter life spans. It’s more than just feeling tired all day and keeping your partner awake with loud snoring. If you have sleep apnoea, the walls of your throat come together while you sleep. This blocks off your upper airway and stops you from breathing properly.

Airway blockages mean you can stop breathing for 10 to 60 seconds or until your brain registers this and tells you to wake up. This is often followed by a snort or gasping sound as your upper airway opens. Most of the time you won’t notice; however your partner certainly will. The pattern of waking can repeat itself hundreds of times per night, leaving you exhausted the next day. Not only that; it affects your overall health.

How sleep apnoea affects your health

It’s important to know that sleep apnoea affects more than your sleep. Untreated sleep apnoea has an impact on your health and is associated with many medical conditions. These include diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) are considered the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea. CPAP delivers one level of pressure continuously throughout the night, whereas APAP automatically adjusts using an algorithm. Both CPAP and APAP devices work by delivering a gentle flow of air to the back of your throat using a mask. This flow of air creates positive air pressure, which forms an air splint that stops your airway from collapsing. This eliminates snoring and sleep apnoea.

The Bioanalytics device – An alternative to CPAP

BioAnalytics is an Australian start-up, headed up by Owen Morgan, who has been working closely with an experienced team of engineers at Romar Engineering, based in Sefton, New South Wales, to develop a new device that is set to change the lives of sleep apnoea sufferers.

While CPAP is the standard form of treatment for sleep apnoea patients, for approximately 30% of patients this method is not suitable. Primarily, this is down to comfort, both physical and psychological. In conjunction with Romar, the BioAnalytics team developed a new sleep apnoea device that is just one tenth the cost of current therapies and more comfortable to use. It will monitor patients’ quality of sleep and can be used by those 40% of patients who can’t use traditional therapies.

“This product is a real game-changer in the sleep apnoea market,” says Morgan. “It’s a world first.”

BioAnalytics connected with Romar through a product design firm. Morgan was seeking a manufacturer with silicone and product development expertise. Ideally, the start-up wanted a manufacturing partner who could help it develop a product from concept to production reality. Moreover it didn’t want to work with a variety of firms to achieve their product goals.

“Romar is very unique in the Australian landscape because they have engineering and product development capabilities,” Morgan adds. “This includes tool design, tool manufacturing, prototyping and production.”

BioAnalytics will soon begin a six-month clinical trial of its new sleep apnoea device. It is fully tooled and the design is complete. Following this trial, Bioanlaytics will seek regulatory approval both in Australia and the US. Romar will be with them every step of the way, manufacturing every device for the trial, and from there on into the future with its global product release. The partnership with Romar has been crucial in allowing BioAnalytics to reach this point successfully.

These are certainly exciting times for both Romar and BioAnalytics. For companies that have a new product that is broadly defined and is ready to go from concept to prototype phase, Morgan believes Romar is an ideal partner. He describes the relationship BioAnalytics has with Romar as a very collaborative and innovative one.

“Neil Wilson (Romar’s Chairman) and Alan Lipman (CEO) both have a genuine interest in products that make a difference,” he concludes. “Their engineering team is very responsive and open to innovation and problem-solving.”