Over 2000 Australian families are impacted by stillbirth each year, claiming the lives of 1 in every 130 pregnancies.
Pregnant people at high risk typically travel to hospital for ultrasound monitoring to measure the fetal heart rate to determine if intervention is needed.
The ultrasound sensor must be moved frequently to remain over the baby’s heart, with women often confined to bed during monitoring sessions in pregnancy and labour.
Kali Healthcare has developed a new pregnancy monitoring system that consists of a small wearable device and sensor patch that very accurately picks up a baby’s heart rate.
Co-Founder Dr Fiona Brownfoot, a practicing obstetrician, said the simple to use technology provides the possibility of monitoring at home during telehealth consults, a game changer for regional patients.
“Kali Healthcare’s wearable technology allows the baby’s heart rate to be accurately monitored using thin electrical sensors placed in a single position that will enable women to move more freely, and open the potential for telehealth appointments.”
Dr Brownfoot works with a multidisciplinary research team from The University of Melbourne, including engineers Professor Marimuthu Palaniswami and Dr Emerson Keenan.
Over the last few years, the team has conducted pilot clinical trials for the innovative technology with clinicians and pregnant women at the Mercy Hospital for Women.
Now the pre-seed raise, led by the University of Melbourne alongside LaunchVic’s Alice Anderson Fund and a consortium of private investors, will see Kali Healthcare undertake its first regulatory clinical trial in the next 12 months.
In 2 years’ time, that trial should be completed and a submission will be made for regulatory approval to take the device to market.
“Our ambition for this monitoring device is to be able to provide pregnancy care to women in remote and disadvantaged communities so all women can access the same level of care provided as metropolitan areas,” Dr Brownfoot said.
LaunchVic CEO Dr Kate Cornick said she was pleased to see the Alice Anderson Fund back its next female-led startup.
“The Alice Anderson Fund by LaunchVic is proud to back ambitious women like Fiona and her team,” she said.
“The capital they have secured will help accelerate their product development and propel their long-term growth – something LaunchVic is focused on across all aspects of the Victorian startup sector.”
To bring their technology to market, Kali Healthcare has partnered with Victorian-based MedTech developer and manufacturer, Neo-Bionica which specializes in the development of smart, bioelectronic medical devices.
HealthTech is one of Victoria’s largest startup subsectors, with close to 1 in 5 companies working in this space.
CEO Ludovic Labat said “Neo-Bionica has the privilege of working with Australia’s most innovative MedTech companies and we are very proud to work with Kali Healthcare to help commercialise its smart and lifesaving device for pregnancy monitoring.”.
The University of Melbourne, Managing Director, Research Innovation Commercialisation, Ken Jefferd, praised Kali Healthcare as an example of successful technology transfer out of the academic sector.
“As an early investor, the University is proud to see Kali Healthcare take these important next steps towards translating their exciting technology into a new device with the potential to improve lives and deliver impact at scale.
“Providing critical pre-seed investment is part of the University’s ongoing commitment to supporting the creation and growth of new entrepreneurial opportunities created by our world-class researchers, students and alumni and affiliated medical research institutes and hospitals.”