Propeller partners with Aptar in hopes of winning race to first integrated 'smart' inhaler

Propeller Health's mobile platform--Courtesy of Propeller Health

Smart inhaler company Propeller Health is teaming up with Aptar Pharma to develop a pressurized metered dose inhaler with sensors and components that monitor usage of the upcoming asthma and COPD fighting device, dubbed the cMDI. The deal with Aptar aims to build the sensors directly into the inhaler, rather than making them available as an optional, add-on accessory, as is currently the case.

The cMDI will be connected to the Propeller digital system, which deploys apps, text messages and emails to help patients stay compliant with dosing instructions and manage the conditions with the help of their physician. The companies say it will be a first-of-its-kind device, and call it the most significant improvement to inhalers since the addition of mechanical dose counters.

"Patients and physicians deserve better designed inhalers that are easier to use and help them successfully treat their chronic respiratory disease," said David Van Sickle, CEO of Madison, WI-based Propeller. "We are excited to work with Aptar to bring important digital innovation to respiratory drug delivery.We expect our connected inhaler to become the cornerstone for a platform of digital programs that will support and encourage better management of and quality of life with chronic respiratory disease. Together I believe we have the scale and expertise to impact millions of patients with asthma and COPD around the world."

The Fierce 15 member in December announced an R&D collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), under which it will design and manufacture a custom sensor for the Ellipta inhaler to be used in GSK clinical studies of asthma and COPD. The company already has the FDA's OK to sell its apps and sensors with GSK inhalers, as well as Boehringer Ingelheim's Spiriva Respimat inhaler for COPD, among others.

"We are pleased to partner with Propeller to develop the next generation of connected inhalers," said Salim Haffar, the president of France's Aptar Pharma, in a statement. "We believe the combination of Aptar's expertise and technology in inhaler design and development with Propeller's proven system for asthma and COPD patient management creates a compelling offer to meet the needs of stakeholders in this market place".

Qualcomm ($QCOM) and Novartis ($NVS) are also in the race to develop the first integrated smart inhaler, with goals of a 2019 launch. In January they announced they are working together to develop a next-gen connected version of the pharma's Breezhaler device that's used across its entire chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug portfolio.

And last year, Teva ($TEVA) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) made smart inhaler bets of their own by acquiring Gecko Health and investing in Adherium respectively.

Propeller and Aptar say their entrant is ready for licensing and will enter clinical studies later this year.

- read the release

Special Report: FierceMedicalDevices' 2015 Fierce 15 - Propeller Health