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OxiWear, an Arlington-based company developing a wearable oxygen monitoring device, has raised a pre-seed funding round of $1.25 million, exceeding its goal of $750,000.
This funding will allow the medical- and sports-technology startup to finish developing its product and start beta testing it before releasing the device by mid-year 2022.
OxiWear was started by Shavini Fernando, who lives with severe pulmonary hypertension: a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood through the lungs. It leaves her vulnerable to sudden and undetected drops in oxygen, known as silent hypoxia.
Rather than let the disease rule her life, she decided to develop an ear-wearable pulse oximeter that offers 24-hour, continuous oxygen monitoring and low-oxygen alerting. She invented the device in Georgetown University’s maker’s hub while a graduate student.
“OxiWear is a product that I developed to help patients like me — those living with pulmonary hypertension,” Fernando said. “Through our research, we learned that there is a larger market for oxygen monitoring including elite athletes, high-altitude travelers and patients with diseases such as [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], sleep apnea and COVID-19.”
The ear is one of the most accurate body parts for measuring oxygen saturation levels and detecting when they begin to drop, according to the company.
But the device is not just suitable for those prone to silent hypoxia. Performance athletes and high-altitude travelers can use it to receive non-intrusive and accurate oxygen monitoring 24 hours a day, according to the company.
In anticipation of launching the product next year, OxiWear is meeting with the Food and Drug Administration to earn its medical device designation and is participating in the leAD Sports & Health Tech accelerator program.
Leading the pre-seed round was GAP Funds, an investment program of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation — formerly CIT — that previously invested in the company this summer.
“OxiWear is a game changer for those affected by the complications of pulmonary hypertension, and could be the difference between safety and danger,” said Tom Weithman, VIPC’s Managing Director of GAP Funds.
The startup received re-investments from previous supporters Ted Leonsis and The Paul & Rose Carter Foundation.
“I’ve been a proud, early supporter of Shavini and her life-saving work and I congratulate her on not only meeting her pre-seed funding round target — but decisively beating it,” Leonsis said. “It’s a testament to how in-demand her product is and how smartly she has built her company around it. I expect she will only continue to grow, and I happily stand by her to offer advice whenever she needs it.”
Paul Caicedo, Future Communities Capital, Gaingels, Halcyon Fund, Hourglass Venture Partners, TiE’s D.C. and Boston chapters and Tysons Angel Group funded this round.
Halcyon Fund is tied to a flagship residency fellowship for entrepreneurs at Georgetown, the Washington Business Journal reports. The fund has been building up an investment strategy, including an angel investment network and a microloan fund, with the goal of improving access to capital for women and people of color starting their own companies.
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