Propeller Health's latest smart inhaler deal: Novartis' Breezhaler

Propeller app and sensor
Propeller's sensor works with a number of inhalers, but the company also makes custom sensors for differently shaped devices, such as GlaxoSmithKline's Diskus and Ellipta inhalers. Image: Propeller Health

Propeller Health is teaming up with Novartis to develop a custom add-on sensor for the Big Pharma’s Breezhaler inhaler. The tie-up marks Propeller’s fifth pharma partnership and its third with a major respiratory disease player.

The agreement will see Propeller developing a custom sensor to connect Novartis’ Breezhaler, a capsule-based dry powder inhaler, to its platform. The sensor will passively record and transmit compliance data to help patients and physicians better understand their usage and adherence. The tie-up will focus on COPD in Europe.

“The addition of this major respiratory franchise represents an important next step in our mission to bring valuable digital companions to everyone’s respiratory treatments,” said Propeller CEO David Van Sickle in the statement.

Propeller’s platform helps patients and physicians manage respiratory disease—its sensor attaches to most inhalers and records where, when and why a patient takes medication. The sensor then transmits data via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, where patients and physicians may view it.

While the iconic metered dose inhaler can deliver a variety of different respiratory medications in a variety of forms, different companies make inhalers in different shapes, necessitating a custom sensor to work with each shape, Van Sickle said. Propeller has developed a custom sensor for GlaxoSmithKline’s Diskus and Ellipta inhalers, as well as for Boehringer Ingelheim’s Respimat inhaler.

Last January, Novartis expanded an existing partnership with Qualcomm to develop a connected version of its Breezhaler device. At the time, the companies anticipated a 2019 launch for the next-gen inhaler. The Propeller partnership has no impact on the eBreezhaler development with Qualcomm, said a Novartis spokesman.

Propeller’s other partnerships include tie-ups with generics player Vectura and Aptar Pharma, which specializes in drug delivery. It is creating an add-on sensor for the former’s lever-operated multidose inhaler and it is working with the latter on a pressurized metered dose inhaler with built-in sensors, rather than an add-on component.

In October 2016, Propeller picked up $21.5 million in Series C funding to push the expansion of its already rapidly growing platform. In addition to five pharma collaborations, the company counts more than 45 partnerships with healthcare systems and managed care organizations.