Marketing a new tool for asthma management

Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course held at the T-REx startup accelerator are sharing their team projects this semester on the Olin Blog. This report is from the team working at Sparo Labs, a company founded by Wash U Class of 2013 grads.

Asthma is a devastating public health issue. Despite a staggering number of asthma patients – estimated at 300 million worldwide and 1 million new cases diagnosed in US every year – asthma (and other related respiratory illnesses) is still a tremendously misunderstood and mismanaged condition affecting quality of life and imposing significant, yet avoidable, economic burdens on the health care system. The healthcare system as a whole isn’t working for asthma patients – clinicians don’t have time to spend with patients to properly educate them, additionally they don’t have effective tools for properly managing patients and making well-informed decisions.

Current solutions for asthma patients to track their symptoms, even in developed Western nations, are inadequate for daily use. Spirometers found in doctor’s office are expensive, and require the services of a trained technician to calibrate them often. Peak flow meters have the advantage of being distributable to patients, but they are unwieldy, unreliable, and not sophisticated. Moreover, neither offers patients a meaningful way to engage with the status of their lung function or to better understand what and how different factors (medications and triggers) affect their asthma.

Without a system to actively track lung capacity changes, patients and doctors experience great difficulty understanding causes, symptoms, and successful remedies, which can vary greatly from individual to individual.

Sparo Labs: Taking flight with Wing

Sparo Labs are located at the T-Rex accelerator in downtown St. Louis. While students at Wash U they won the Olin Cup, Discovery Competition, and an Arch Grants while developing their plans for Sparo Labs.

Sparo Labs are located at the T-Rex accelerator in downtown St. Louis. Watch video of Abby and Andrew demonstrating their mobile-enabled spirometer.

Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer, co-founders of Sparo Labs and WashU alumni, are introducing Wing. Wing is an innovative product that allows asthma patients to be pro-active in managing their asthma and not have to rely on their doctor as the single source of information.

Wing combines the strengths of clinical spirometers and peak flow meters, while also discarding their barriers to patient access. It is a simple, no-frills, pocket-sized sensor that connects to a visually appealing cloud-based management and education app on smartphones. This innovative technology allows asthma patients and caretakers (such as parents, nurses, and doctors) to accurately measure lung function at any given time. Asthma patients will have the power to always know “how their asthma is doing” and what preventive measures they can take before the onset of an asthma attack. Furthermore, chosen clinicians can easily access the data, improving dialogue with their patients.

With the product nearing the FDA submission and clearance process, Abigail and Andrew have set their sights on selecting the best channels to spread awareness and excitement in preparation for a beta-launch of Wing.

Where Team CELECT Adds Value

Abigail and Andrew provided the CELect team with in-house research and suggestions to familiarize themselves with the customers they were looking to garner the most support amongst and the different options to implementing a successful pre-launch campaign.

Specifically, the CELect team needs to understand the potential target customers’

1) Individual pain points i.e. parent’s frustration with inability to help their children,

2) Technological ability and comfort level, and

3) Appropriate channels to provide the necessary and applicable information.

The goal now is to find the appropriate channels that will garner the most support (as part of a pre-launch campaign) to demonstrate credible demand and interest that Sparo Labs can use to leverage for further promotion post-FDA approval.

The CELect team looks forward to working closely with Abigail and Andrew over the next two months and is excited to take part in a project that will have real, significant, and long-lasting impact on the asthma community. More broadly, the team feels Wing can serve as an actionable example to help fix the information disconnect that limits chronic diseases patients from actively managing their lives.

CELect – Sparo Team
Kenneth Mao – MBA 2016
Srinivas Medepalli – PMBA 38
Kevin Smith – JD 2016
Christopher Weber – JD 2016

Images: WUSTL Photos

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