CLEVELAND, Oh. – If you had to collect vital signs from a mountain lion, wouldn’t you prefer to do it with zero contact and at a safe distance? With Structured Monitoring Products’ new technology VetGuardian™, exotic animal veterinarians at the Akron (Ohio) Zoo have monitored mountain lions and more.
Structured Monitoring Products is a University of Florida startup reinventing vital signs monitoring with a unique Doppler radar-based technology. VetGuardian is a zero-touch monitoring system for animals – no wires or attachments needed. It protects vets and their staff from bites, scratches, and zoonotic diseases during general checkups and post-surgery monitoring.
“Animals do not like wires, and getting leads on an aggressive animal is even more dangerous,” said Vik Ramprakash, founder and CEO of Structured Monitoring Products. “The idea to help veterinarians to detect pulse, respiration and temperature without any wires or contact sensors intrigued me, and this developed into a business model.”
When Ramprakash explored UF’s portfolio of technologies available for licensing, he was attracted to the idea of a software and device that could assess vital signs without requiring wires or sensors to be attached to the patient. He signed an exclusive license to commercialize the technology.
“While I was working on the prototype, I met a veterinarian who was curious to know if we could use the technology to detect vital signs of animals,” Ramprakash said.
The company was founded in 2015, and it introduced VetGuardian™ to early adopters in January. At the time, Ramprakash and his team attended trade shows and conferences, meeting experts in the field who provided feedback on the value of the product. Now, 17 clinics, the Akron Zoo and the San Diego Zoo use the VetGuardian technology via an early-adopter program.
The early adopter program is still open. Select veterinarians can enroll to shape this field of science in its early stage.
The Product and Its Applications
VetGuardian’s™ most common application is for overnight monitoring when hundreds of thousands of at-risk animal patients are left unsupervised at clinics. However, with VetGuardian™, veterinarians can monitor their patients via a live video feed and a dashboard that can display a summary diagnostic about the patient in real-time. Text messages on their phones can alert them when the patient is in danger, allowing them to react promptly.
Veterinarians also use the product to monitor their animal patients after surgery. Instead of visiting the animal to monitor its condition several times during the day, veterinarians can monitor their patients remotely – around the clock.
“The most surprising application of the VetGuardian™ that I have seen has been for a general check-up on a sedated mountain lion,” Ramprakash shared. “Not many people ever get to hold a lion’s paw, and holding it showed us the sheer power and beauty of nature’s best creation.”
Without VetGuardian™, exotic animal veterinarians at the Akron Zoo would have had to check the lion by hand if the recovery process was slow, which can be dangerous and also upset the animal. The technology allowed them to detect and monitor the animal’s heart rate with zero contact.
The Florida-based company, Structured Monitoring Products, opened an office in Ohio after receiving a grant from the state. They started working with the Akron Zoo, which served as a testing site for the product. Now, they are working together on a research project and are creating a joint-promotional marketing campaign.
The San Diego Zoo in California is also using Vet Guardian™. At a veterinary conference and tradeshow Ramprakash attended, he met a zoo employee interested in learning more about the product.
After hearing about its benefits, its ease of use and the ability to collect vital signs safely, the zoo employee was intrigued and worked with Ramprakash to enroll the San Diego Zoo in the early adopter program. To date, the zoo has used the product successfully on more than 20 types of animals for general check-ups, new entries, and post-surgeries.
Initial studies in live environments indicate that VetGuardian™ has a 92 percent accuracy compared to traditional vital signs monitors.
“The product’s use has expanded to 17 clinics across the United States, and we continue to gather important data through formal clinical studies,” Ramprakash said.
A promising future
The company is engaging with industry experts to gather their feedback as part of its next steps for expanding the use of VetGuardian™ into other animal markets. At least three leading veterinary schools in North America and Europe have expressed their interest in pursuing research studies to test the product on other species such as birds, horses, and livestock.
These research projects will allow the company to demonstrate the versatility of the product to help all sorts of animals, from critters to reptiles, from parrots to predators.
In addition, the company is considering starting research on primates. One of the biggest federally funded primate centers in the world is interested in understanding how the technology might serve their project goals. For now, the company is developing VetGuardian™ for animal monitoring, but ultimately their goal is to expand the product to human use.
About Structured Monitoring Products
SMP is reinventing vital signs monitoring with a unique doppler radar-based technology. Our patented, touchless platform, VetGuardian™, promotes low-stress handling and improves staff efficiency, and animal care.
VetGuardian™ is a zero contact, at-a-distance, radar tool. It removes the need for physical contact when veterinarians need heart rate, temperature, and respiration information. By placing VetGuardian™ at a distance and without the need to contact the animal, the patient and staff stress levels significantly reduce. Animal care providers can now monitor recovery from practically anywhere. There is no need to be in the same room as the patient. Continuous heart and breathing rates along with a live video-audio feed mean that less staff time is required to access these vitals. Faster response time and treatment helps to safeguard patients when they are most at-risk in recovery.
Written by Veronica Talavera, Marketing & Communications Specialist, UF Innovate.