UC Irvine biomedical engineering professor Michelle Khine recently launched her sixth medtech startup, inspired by a personal experience after the birth of her son.

A mother’s medtech inspiration


Michelle Khine’s latest medtech startup was inspired by one of the scariest moments of her life.

In 2018, Khine, a UCI biomedical engineering professor and entrepreneur, was watching her newborn baby being treated for a collapsed lung when she noticed that doctors weren’t monitoring his breathing.

As she soon discovered, respiration has long been a neglected vital sign. State-of-the-art monitors are often bulky and can be inaccurate.

“I went back and told my students: ‘This is ridiculous!’” she recalls.

Khine and one of her doctoral students, Michael Chu, went on to develop a new compact, wireless, noninvasive monitoring device. They launched a new company – the sixth Khine has founded since her grad-student days. Chu is now the CEO. The startup, Makani Science (Makani is Hawaiian for “wind”), has since made speedy progress, thanks to enthusiastic investors and local support from an Irvine accelerator and UCI incubator.

Today, Khine and Chu are awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to start selling their new monitor, as early as later this year, and are poised to compete in a global anesthesia and respiratory device market predicted to reach $38.2 billion this year.

Khine says Makani’s fast track to the market seems illustrative of Irvine’s medtech boom. “I’m feeling so much vibrancy around this industry,” she says. “A lot of companies are starting, and there’s lots of energy in this space.”

More good news: Khine’s baby son is now a healthy 5-year-old.

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