Patent of the Month July

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Mobile therapy in case of CO-Intoxication

This month we honour a development of the company HBOX Therapies Ltd. The multi-award-winning spin-off from RWTH Aachen University was recently able to prevail among impressive finalists in the AC2 Start-up Competition 2022 and win first place. The three entrepreneurs Peter Schlanstein, Niklas Steuer und Matthias Menne, all graduates and former staff members of RWTH Aachen University, have developed a technology to enrich the oxygen content of the blood outside the body. This allows for example to treat persons with a carbon monoxide intoxication.

The patent on which the technology is based was granted in the USA in April this year. The Patent document US11291754B2 titled „System for the extracorporeal elimination of carbon monoxide“ is thus our patent of the Month July!

Carbon monoxide, chemically described as CO, is a highly toxic substance and main cause of deadly intoxications. It affects more than 200,000 people a year in Europe and the USA. The odourless, tasteless and colourless gas consists of one carbon and one oxygen atom and is thus very similar to pure oxygen, which is present in the air as an O2 molecule with two oxygen atoms.

Because Carbon Monoxide is binding 250 times better to haemoglobin, it ousts the essential gas in the blood even when it is inhaled at very low concentrations. As a result, haemoglobin can no longer transport sufficient oxygen, which is accompanied by a lack of O2- supply to the organs – sufferers choke from the inside. CO poisoning is treated by raising the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the blood. This eliminates CO more rapidly. For mild cases, respiration with pure oxygen is sufficient. Heavy intoxications, however, should be treated with oxygen therapy in a pressure chamber (ventilation with 100% pure oxygen under pressure), since the risk of long-term effects on the undersupplied organs is thus reduced. However, these pressure chambers are expensive and there are only a few in Germany, leading to critical transport and waiting times in case of accident.

This is exactly where HBOX jumps in with the development of a small, minimally invasive pressure chamber that only treats the blood and not the entire body. The extracorporeal procedure works similar to dialyses: the blood is led out of the body, enriched with oxygen under pressure and thus the carbon monoxide is displaced. Afterwards, the blood purified in this manner is returned to the body. The small pressure chambers are inexpensive, and can be used quickly and mobile wherever they are needed, so that they can help many patients and possibly reduce long term effects.

The method is so simple yet ingenious that it is a bit surprising why no one has come up with this idea before. Dr. Peter Schlanstein got the flash of inspiration while talking to an emergency physician. At the time, the mechanical engineer had already been working as a research assistant at the CVE (Institute for Cardiovascular Engineering, RWTH) for six years, doing research on extracorporeal gas exchangers. At the institute, he also met his companions Niklas Steuer, who, after receiving his Master’s degree at RWTH in mechanical engineering (with focus on medical engineering), has been doing his PhD there. The third of the bunch is Dr Matthias Menne, who, in addition to his Master's degree in mechanical engineering (focus medical engineering), also obtained a Master's degree in economics from RWTH Aachen University and afterwards completed his PhD in theoretical medicine at CVE. Together they pushed ahead with the project and founded the company HBOX Therapies Ltd. in Aachen in October 2021.

Currently, the HBOX technology is being further developed to support lung function in respiratory diseases. Furthermore, its application in reducing the damage caused by heart attacks or in supporting cancer therapy is also being evaluated. Due to its simple and therefore low-cost properties combined with high clinical relevance, the innovative technology is actually beating all other market players. Their technical solutions are either simple but clinically irrelevant, or relevant but complex and expensive, or not yet sufficiently mature for the market. HBOX on the other hand combines all of these criteria and so the newly awarded team can take off. For this, they applied for a KMU-innovative project together with the University Hospital RWTH Aachen (UKA).

The Patent and Standards Centre wishes the winning team ongoing good luck and great ideas for the future!

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Patent document US11291754B2