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UMB pumps $100K into artificial lung company

The University of Maryland, Baltimore has invested $100,000 in a Baltimore company called Breethe, Inc. to help market a wearable, artificial lung system developed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The investment was made through UM Ventures, a partnership between UMB and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County that allows the schools to commercialize technology developed by their students and faculty.

Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, executive director of the medical school’s Program in Lung Healing, developed the core technology behind the portable blood pump oxygenator and founded Breethe to commercialize the product in 2014.

“There is growing demand for a new technology to take over the function of the human lung while allowing patients mobility,” Griffith said in a statement. The artificial lung has the potential to let otherwise hospital-bound patients leave the hospital and resume more of their regular daily lives, he said.

Breethe has obtained exclusive rights to the the university’s intellectual property to develop the device, designed for patients with respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary collapse.

Lung disease is responsible for one in six deaths in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

Griffth’s technology has the potential to improve the quality of life for many patients, said Phil Robilotto, the chief commercialization officer for UM Ventures. “We really want to do what we can to help move the technology toward the marketplace,” he said.

On its way to the marketplace, the technology would likely be tested on larger animals, such as sheep, and then humans, Robilotto said.

Breethe is the second company UM Ventures has invested in, Robilotto said.

It also gave $100,000 to the Stevensville-based Harpoon Medical in November so that company could commercialize a minimally invasive surgical tool for beating-heart valve repair.

Robilotto couldn’t discuss details of that project, but said Harpoon was “moving along very rapidly” with its product.