Working with premature babies, Chantal Lau, a neonatology professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston knew that many ‘preemies’ must be fed by tube until their oral feeding skills are developed enough so they can go home. But to date, it is not well understood how and when ‘preemies’ develop these crucial feeding skills.
Considering that costs of neonatal care approach $4,000 per day just for nursing care, Lau sought a solution. Under her New Mexico startup company, PediBioMetrix, she crafted an oral motor kinetic monitoring (OMK) system using a baby bottle, sensors, and tubing. This system, which detects preemies’ sucking, swallowing, and breathing events, assists in identifying causes for these infants’ difficulties. But though interest was high, her OMK system was too complicated and labor-intensive for nurses to replicate.
Through the NMSBA Program, Lau worked with James Watts and Larry Bronisz of LANL. The two engineers found lower-cost, readily available sensors that reliably monitor an infant’s feeding events. The simplified sensors will allow Lau to decrease product development costs and move much closer to commercializing her OMK system to meet this growing health demand in neonatal intensive care units.