PHOTO: Refael Shamir, right, presents his Letos physiological monitoring technology at a conference in Lisbon. Now Shamir is working with Univerity of Oregon graduate students and Ph.D. candidates to adapt his technology for U.S. markets.
BY DEBORAH MOON
Israeli innovator Refael Shamir arrived in Eugene early this month as a visiting scholar at the University of Oregon, where he will work with graduate students and Ph.D. candidates to adapt his physiological monitoring technology for the U.S. market.
Shamir, 31, is the founder of Letos, a computer software start-up that specializes in behavioral sciences, affective-neuroscience and well-being technologies. In Oregon, he will work on adapting the technology for which he developed the hardware in Israel before moving the company to Germany in 2018 to continue the development of software.
Unlike cardiac monitors used in hospitals or head or wristband monitors, the Letos monitor does not require skin contact and can be worn comfortably on the outside of clothes to accurately monitor respiration rates and pulse. A recent study by the University of Potsdam showed the technology provided data consistent with more intrusive monitors.
“We provide a remote, discrete solution … to monitor physiological parameters (such as heart and respiratory rates) for the purpose of objectively assessing user
comfort and well-being,” says Shamir.
“Together with UO, we wish to adapt the solution for the U.S. market to provide
early signs of a developing infectious disease (such as COVID) from the comfort of our homes, while maintaining the highest levels of security and privacy standards.”
The original premise of the technology was to offer the field of psychology an assessment of stress levels. But Shamir says stress-related acceleration of heart and respiration are also early indicators of infection.
“An early reaction that manifests via the increase of resting heart rate over 24 hours is an early prediction of infection, which manifests a few days before symptoms of fever and cough for COVID or other diseases,” he says.
Letos offers a consumer-oriented approach with at-home monitoring of heart and respiratory rates throughout the day.
“The device can be attached to clothing and allows a robust measurement to allow people to give to their family doctor an objective, rather than the usual subjective assessment, when they ask questions like ‘how do you feel’,” says Shamir. “It is an aid for diagnostics for doctors.”
Shamir has already spent a couple of months working with UO remotely and will be in Eugene for two months.
His project with UO is part of the NGI
Explorers program, which provides Europe’s top researchers and innovators an immersive experience in the United States.
“NGI connected me with UO and financed the process,” he says. “NGI is a consortium of three organizations in Europe. Together, they use a pot of funding to connect European researchers with U.S.-based universities.”
Born in Jerusalem, Shamir was just 17 when he began his studies at the Jerusalem College of Engineering while still in high school. He was able to continue his studies during his military service. Following graduation, he worked in Israel in industry and startups for five years, including work on medical devices supporting diagnosis, specifically cervical cancer.
“When you work for start-up companies, large corporates come to the start-ups and offer them some of their next-generation developments to see if the start-ups can help find uses for such technologies,” says Shamir. “During my last year working for that start-up, I came across a very specific technology that was initially aimed at long-term monitoring of patients in clinics and hospitals to replace the 12-lead electrocardiogram that might be used for overnight observations.”
Shamir founded Letos to use the technology in a more consumer-oriented approach.
This is his second time in the United States. In 2018, he was invited as a speaker to discuss wearable technology at a NVIDIA GTC conference.
For more information on Letos, visit crunchbase.com/organization/letos.