St. George Innovators Win R&D Grant for Medical Device

Witting Innovations, a St. George based mechanical and bio-engineering design firm, has recently been awarded a $150,000 Phase I SBIR grant from the National Institute of Health to work on a device that tests and refines data for a critical surgical monitor.


Brent Weight, mechanical engineer and MBA, will be the business lead on the project.  His partner Daryl Zitting, a bioengineer, will be the principal investigator, and Doctor Joe Orr, a Research Associate Professor in bioengineering at the University of Utah, will lend his technical and marketing advice and experience to the project.  

“This grant will allow us to focus additional time and resources on the Smart Tank,” said Weight. “This includes hiring contractors or employees to assist with the design of the device.”

The research and design of the project center on a capnometer, a device that analyzes exhaled carbon dioxide gas and produces a wave form or graph that indicates the respiratory health of a patient during surgery. Weight explained that if a capnometer malfunctions, the life of a patient can be in danger without caregivers knowing.

The Smart Tank, as designed by Witting Innovation, simulates the breathing of a patient, allowing for dynamic testing of a capnometer.  According to Zitting, the current tests are very primitive, inconsistent and cannot identify the majority of failure modes.

The highly competitive SBIR grants are designed to stimulate and eventually commercialize innovative research from small businesses. Mary Cardon, who leads Utah’s SBIR-STTR Assistance Center for the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), said a small business rarely receives an award on first application.

“Witting Innovations obviously touched a nerve,” she said, noting that reviewers seemed to be very impressed with their idea.

Zitting said Smart Tank’s application demonstrates a market need for accurate capnometry in the ever changing medical environment.

“In our application the reviewers recognized the need,” Zitting  said.  “The capnometry market is growing rapidly as medical professionals around the globe rely on these instruments to provide vital health information so that they can deliver safe medical treatments.”

Zitting and Weight expect the Smart Tank to have a sellable prototype with both hardware and firmware complete when they finish the SBIR grant in early 2015. Commercially, the device will also include the repeat sales of CO2 canisters.

The Smart Tank was a finalist in the Southern Utah Technology Concept to Company contest in June 2014. The win also represents the collaboration of business resources available through the USTAR program.