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Clinical trials get the green light

WearOptimo founder and CEO Professor Mark Kendall

Clinical trials get the green light

Groundbreaking painless wearable health sensor get $5 million investment boost

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

Human trials of a microwearable sensor for the detection of dangerous dehydration levels are set to begin after the latest successful fundraising round for HealthTech firm WearOptimo.

The $5 million boost will enable the company to progress its game-changing hydration monitor, through clinical trials at QUT.

“It’s predominantly Queensland investment backing forward-thinking Queensland technology, which is brilliant,’’ WearOptimo CEO and founder Professor Mark Kendall says, welcoming support from family offices and high-net-worth investors.

WearOptimo is pioneering a HealthTech platform that uses a range of wearable sensors with microscopic electrodes that painlessly penetrate the outer skin layer to measure biomarkers in real time and detect conditions from dehydration to cardiac arrest.

For users, the sticker-like sensor feels like one that sits on the skin, but the information it harvests is worlds apart.

WearOptimo focuses on areas where time matters – where a rapid intervention can make a massive difference

- Professor Mark Kendall

“When we think of today’s wearables, we typically think of something like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit,” Professor Kendall says. “However, from a health point of view, they are extremely simple and limited because of their inability to safely access key signals within the skin.

“The skin is an amazing barrier. While doing its job, it blocks the bulk of the signals today’s typical wearables are trying to measure. Our solution will overcome this constraint and open up next generation insights from a wearables perspective.”

Instead of sitting on the skin’s surface, micro-electrodes on WearOptimo’s next-generation wearables reach a hair’s width into the epidermis, to tap into biomarkers that surface-based products can’t measure. They have the potential to replace frequent blood tests and invasive implantable monitors.

Professor Kendall says along with human trials of the hydration monitor, the new funding would also support continued development of a sensor to aid early detection of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

“WearOptimo focuses on areas where time matters – where a rapid intervention can make a massive difference,” he says.

The hydration monitor will be the first microwearable product to market, and has wide applications across mining, aged care, construction, and sport, where dehydration can have a major impact but is notoriously difficult to monitor.

“When we get dehydrated our brain shrinks,’’ Professor Kendall explains. “If you’re only three per cent dehydrated, it has effectively the same effect on your cognitive function as having a blood alcohol reading of .08.”

“So, if you’re driving a 300-tonne coal hauler and are the equivalent of being drunk, then that’s a serious issue we want to help minimise in the workplace.”

At present, there are few practical ways to monitor hydration, save the imprecise method of asking people to monitor the colour of their urine. In aged care, it becomes even more difficult.

“The sensors in our body that tell us that we need to drink, deteriorate as we get older. It starts at age 49 and gets worse over time,” Professor Kendall says.

“Dehydration can cause dizziness, falls, infections, and seizures. It’s estimated about 25 per cent of aged care hospitalisations are related to poor hydration management.

“There’s a massive area of unmet need.”

And with the company headquartered in Woolloongabba, not far from the 2032 Olympic Stadium, sporting applications for the hydration microwearable are front of mind too.

“When you think about the push for sports tech, there’s all manner of layers to how we can help athletes, probably elite athletes in the first instance before rolling it out more broadly,” Professor Kendall said.

“But at its core, the vision for WearOptimo is to develop affordable wearable technology that takes early-intervention, precision medicine to many people.”

This latest round of funding for WearOptimo follows the original and ongoing strategic and investment support from the Australian National University, grants from the Federal and Queensland governments and a strategic investment and partnership with Aspen Medical to aid distribution of the Hydration microwearables.

The company is currently working on plans for a pilot plant in Queensland where it can scale up to produce up to 20 million microwearables. Further raisings are expected to continue to take the products to market.