The sweat monitoring device developed by YOPI allows athletes to understand their oxygen consumption rates and also alerts to potentially dangerous situations from the health point of view. The company's headquarters was recently established in the Gaza regional development area.
How did Hemi Re'em, an entrepreneur, manager and senior consultant in the fields of materials engineering and the military industry, set up a sweat monitoring company in the fields of sports and medicine? As in many such cases, it starts with a personal story.
"I was an athlete, even an iron man. My lifestyle was pretty much the healthiest one could live, and yet I needed bypass surgery. Physically I was fine, except for my genetics. And it turns out I'm not the only one. Oh yes, I wore sports fitness monitoring devices. They did not give even a hint there was a major problem," he recalls.
How, then after all, did you realize that something bad was happening?
"I felt I was not able to exert as much as I used to, and my back hurt more and more. Doctors checked everything including cardiac function; that was one of the last guesses. So I was already at my appointment, and within 10 minutes of starting the cardiac test they told me, 'you have a blockage of over 90% ', and so that very day they did the surgery. I became an attraction for medical students at the hospital that day When it was explained to the students all the early signs that the doctors had incorrectly interpreted, it became clear my case was not typical of the problem".
When Re'em came out of the hospital and recovered, he decided he needed to find more a successful monitoring method, and to discover cases like his before they ended up like he did or worse; but mostly by focusing on the field of improving performance in sports, an interest closest to his heart in more ways than one. When he studied the field, Re'em realized that sweat offered interesting metrics for monitoring physiology, both during training and for medical needs.
"If you monitor different substances in sweat continuously, you can learn about oxygen consumption, which is critical to understanding heart activity," he said, " Today, such tests are already performed at the clinic, in which a face mask is worn by the trainee while performing physical activity."
The company he founded, YOPI, already manages to match the performance of the laboratory test (according to experiments conducted by the company). Its product, being wearable, performs continuous monitoring during every sports training, in real time, instead of doing so at a single point in time in a controlled environment in the laboratory.
Re'em began by studying the field himself. "It was like studying Gemara, connecting different parts together and saying - 'This is the halacha now.' I studied on my own, and then I consulted with experts. They told me that the connections I had mapped were correct, and that if we could monitor these mineral levels found in sweat, in a relatively simple way, then we have a product."
Re'em and his team have developed disposable sensors and the algorithms needed to turn the information derived from the sensors into an accurate measure of oxygen consumption activity. The product, meanwhile, is not intended initially for the medical market (as a diagnostic tool it will need the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, but rather for the sports market, to allow athletes to understand crucial aspects of their performance.
Re'em continues, "Every serious athlete, even if he does not play sports as a paid professional, undergoes oxygen consumption tests about once a season, which costs about NIS 700 for a one-time test at the clinic. We allow the same person, for the same price, to receive this monitoring information continuously throughout the year while they are training or competing." There is a small additional charge for the consumable sensors, plus another $ 7-15 in usage fees for the smartphone app, which reads the oxygen consumption and offers recommendations for training.
"We tell the athletes if they are currently overexerted or whether they can safely continue; also which training has brought them the best results. In fact, in using our app we become essentially a portable digital personal trainer providing direct feedback based on current body state, this is something nonexistent in the past. This can improve training without causing injuries or overexertion."
Many athletes train with a heart rate monitor, which also measures additional metrics, but, according to the company, oxygen consumption rates provides a deeper level of understanding of physiological processes in the body. That is why the product is also called YOPI - Your Online Personal Instructor.
At the moment, the product is targeting sports performance, mainly for runners, and later also for cyclists. The launch is expected in about a year.
In the future, the company may return to examine the medical field. Re'em explains, "Every person has a maximum oxygen consumption level. It is 40-60 milliliters per kilogram per minute for a normal person, and 80-85 for a super-athlete. That's what Lance Armstrong had before the drugs, and then he even got above 85. Below 22 is considered a risk area, and below 12 you are in trouble, that means you're about to experience a cardiac event at any moment. Apart from measuring oxygen consumption, we can also measure potassium levels, and warn of out of balance situations."
Attempts have been made in the past to measure minerals in sweat for medical purposes. What is the difference between what has been done so far and your work? "Most attempts have focused on sugar, but the change in sugar in sweat comes a few hours after changing blood sugar levels, and in the field of sugar it is very important to understand what the exact level is right now. "Measure it with precise timing. For us, the important measurement is not the exact quantity, but the patterns of change."
The company has so far raised $750,000 from private investors and now has also received a NIS 3.5 million grant from the Israel Innovation Authority.
YOPI is also part of Magnet, the new start-up accelerator for the Negev Development Authority and Tech7. As part of the accelerator, the companies are connected to leading early-stage investors from Israel and abroad, such as venture capital funds and private investors recruited for the project.
The accelerator is made possible thanks to the support of the Ness Foundation and as part of it, unique programs will be held that will strengthen the technological ecosystem in the Negev. The program is led by Tech 7 together with top experts in the field in Israel, who will help entrepreneurs from the Negev enter the world of Israeli startups.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 1, 2021
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