Monitoring the ‘sleeping giant’ of health (video)

5 Nov 2012

Dr Conor Hanley, co-founder of BiancaMed and managing director, ResMed Sensor Technologies

A balanced diet and physical activity are important for health, but what about sleep? We talk to Dr Conor Hanley, co-founder of BiancaMed and managing director, ResMed Sensor Technologies, about the sleep-monitoring technology the company has developed and why Ireland is well set up for innovation in med tech.

We spend as much as a third of our lives doing it, and disordered sleep has been linked with increased risk of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart problems and metabolic syndrome.

But monitoring how a person sleeps isn’t always easy – current approaches often put devices in contact with the body, and the person may have to spend the night in a sleep lab, away from their normal environment.

So technology initially developed at University College Dublin uses a ‘contact-free’ approach that can be used in the home. In practice, it means the person places a small device next to the bed. Then the device uses sensor technology to pick up on their movement, and that information can be used to assess the quantity and quality of their sleep.

BiancaMed was co-founded by Dr Conor Hanley, Prof Conor Heneghan and Dr Philip de Chazal to commercialise the sleep-monitoring technology, and in 2011 the spin-out was acquired by the multinational company ResMed, which develops and markets products for sleep-disordered breathing and other respiratory disorders.

In May 2012, ResMed announced the launch of the first product in Japan using technology developed by its BiancaMed division. A few months later, in August, it was announced that ResMed is to expand its RD&I facility in Dublin over the coming years.

Here, we talk to Hanley about the sleep-monitoring technology developed by BiancaMed, the company’s acquisition and investment by ResMed, and Ireland and med-tech innovation: is hosting Med Tech Focus, an initiative which over coming months will cover news, reports, interviews and videos, documenting Ireland’s leading role in one of the hottest sectors in technology.

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication