Raphael MichelRaphael Michel, MS, MBA
Like in many areas of medicine, physicians treating sleep disorders face a number of challenges, specifically when it comes to diagnostics. Most sleep monitoring tools are bulky and cumbersome, requiring multiple monitors and a trip to a sleep clinic, which can take patients quite some time and can be uncomfortable and expensive.

To help combat this, Onera Health, a sleep diagnostics company based in Palo Alto, California, recently raised $9.3 million in Series A funding to develop a system which requires only 2 patches that will allow patients to have their sleep monitored at home. The ultimate goal, the company said, is to make the process easier, more affordable, and more accurate.

To provide the clinician community with more information, Raphael Michel, MS, MBA, co-founder and CEO of Onera, spoke with NeurologyLive® about the plans for this funding and how Onera plans to revamp sleep diagnostics.

NeurologyLive®: What’s the broad plan for this funding?

Raphael Michel, MS, MBA: We’re really happy we completed this Series A financing, co-led by imec.xpand as well as Jazz Pharmaceuticals, that has a big focus on sleep and the use of proceeds will be really two-fold. One is to productize the technology, which is this unique patch-based technology.

If you know someone who has gone through the typical processes, when they go to sleep lab and have to put electrodes on them, they’re basically tethered to a machine at the bedside. Then, they spend a night there on site, and that’s how the diagnosis is done. What we’re doing is actually turning all of this machinery that is a full polysomnographer into 2 smart band aids, 1 that you put close to your chest and 1 that you put close to your forehead. Really, we’re using a lot of R&D and nanotechnology, and we want to do that in a way that’s really user-friendly, and cheaper and more convenient for both doctors and patients. We’re going to be using the series of proceeds to actually fully develop that technology and productize it and turn it into an FDA-cleared product between now and next year.

The second thing we’re doing in parallel, and very important particularly for doctors to appreciate, we are building Onera as a service company to help doctors better diagnose their patients who may have or have sleep disorders. What I mean by that is we want to work with doctors, particularly sleep doctors, and give them a tool. Neutralizing the sleep lab which means that now that we can actually prescribe a sleep test to patients that today needs to be in a lab to get a full diagnosis and allow them to have a patient to collect this information from their patients pretty much from anywhere including the patients home. I think what’s important here is that is what the service model will be developing and we are looking to do some pilot programs in the US with select clinical institutions and select doctors to test that model and develop that model and really make sure that we help doctors run their labs and their practices more efficiently and we can actually help them spend more time with their patients and less time filling out reports and doing all the administrative tasks, because as a service company we can send the patch diagnostic to their patients once they prescribe a test we can collect information using machine learning and AI and we can help pinpoint where the issues might be and have them really complete the diagnosis in a much more cost effective and time effective manner.

What’s the biggest challenge you’re seeking to tackle in sleep?

When we look at the current state of sleep diagnostics and I’m talking about getting all of the signals, complete diagnostics, yeah, the sleep apnea is a big issue but also the narcolepsy, there’s insomnia, there’s a lot of disorders. And today the place where this diagnostic can be done is in a lab—running a lab is not trivial, it’s expensive, it’s pretty complicated, and I think the equipment itself creates a lot of the costs and the complexity around running a lab. Sometimes just preparing the patient can take 30, 45 minutes because of the form factor and the equipment itself. And so, the other piece is that these tests can only be done in the lab today the tests that are available can only be done outside the lab can only provide a subset of the information. They’re used more of as a screener or a partial diagnosis and so Onera is really interested in partnering with doctors and sleep doctors in providing a solution.    

First of all, is to provide a much simpler experience for doctors and patients you can imagine 2 band-aids take a minute to a few minutes to apply on the patient, patients can even do that themselves. All of that complexity is greatly simplified, and the second great thing is patients aren’t tethered to a machine anymore and are not forced to sleep in a foreign environment so they can I think to have a better experience and sleep experience while they’re being diagnosed. The third point is that because it’s a very simple interface and diagnostic tool, now you can look at, and cost-effective, you can look at not doing a diagnostic for 1 night, but 2 nights, maybe 3 nights, 5 nights, 7 nights in a row, and get a trend and because it doesn’t happen in a sleep lab it doesn’t mean it would be a lot more expensive if it’s done at home and I think that has the potential to provide much deeper insights into the sleep of that patient and potential disorders, much deeper insights and much deeper insights into an individualized solution or treatment for the patient and I think that should be very intriguing to doctors to do that.

The third piece I will add is that even going past the diagnostic stage which is treatment and treatment monitoring now with a simple patch system doctors will have the ability to actually monitor the efficacy of the treatment over a period of time, whatever that treatment might be, a device, a regimen like losing weight, a drug and to actually monitor the impact on the sleep disorder if that disorder goes away which is rarely done today because of the cost and the requirement to pretty much have a complex piece of machinery tethered to you every time you want to make a measurement. So the thing that we have the ability to the way sleep diagnostics is conducted to simplify for the doctor and for the patient and to unlock that opportunity, the other piece I will say imagine doing that monitoring by night diagnostic studies that will generate a lot of information and a lot of information for a technician or a doctor to look at. And so we want to help the payer and that’s why we’re using our machine learning algorithms or AI to monitor the data and analyze them and distill them to a simple report that doctors can look at they’ll obviously will have access to the full raw data in addition to that pinpoint the simple issues that will help them formulate the diagnosis. They will be the ones performing the diagnosis and interpreting the report, however, we want to make it as simple as possible for them to be empowered by a tool like we’re making to be able to look at a massive amount of data and come up with a diagnosis and treatment for the patient.

So what are the next steps?                

We are looking to run some pilot programs and start that over the next few months. If within the medical community people are intrigued or excited about Onera and might be interested in working with us on pioneering this work, then we invite them to contact us. We’re an early stage company and we’re in the development phase, but it is actually never too early to work closely with thought leaders and pioneers in the field who understand the potential and the transformative aspect of Onera and would like to help us to create the right service model for them.
REFERENCES
1. Onera Health raised $9.3M+ in Series A funding to revolutionize sleep diagnostics [press release]. Palo Alto, CA: Onera Health, Inc; Published April 24, 2019. onerahealthinc.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/t/EEC12D593A37274D2540EF23F30FEDED. Accessed April 30, 2019.