Research benefits people when discoveries are tailored into new treatments and tools available to practicing physicians. Known as technology transfer, the process of developing patient care applications from ideas born in the laboratory and validated through clinical trials is rigorous but also future-oriented. The Medical College of Wisconsin provides its faculty with resources and expert support in bringing new discoveries and inventions to market every year.

A new device designed by Medical College of Wisconsin researchers may alleviate the symptoms of severe acid reflux in patients while they sleep.

Fifteen million people in the U.S. suffer from extraesophageal acid reflux disease (EERD), in which stomach contents are regurgitated beyond the esophagus and into the throat, windpipe and lungs, most often during sleep. The disease can cause serious conditions, including asthma, sleep apnea, pneumonia and voice disorders. Current therapies include medication, behavior modification and surgery. The economic health impact in the U.S. is estimated at $54 billion.

The new device, named the Reza-Band,™ is a non-invasive solution that has been shown in two preliminary Medical College studies to prevent the reflux of stomach contents into the throat. The patent-pending device has been licensed to Wisconsin-based Somna Therapeutics, LLC, for further development and marketing, and clinical trials are underway to gain FDA approval.

The Reza-Band™ is founded on research conducted over 20 years by gastroenterologist Reza Shaker, MD. “EERD leads to a spectrum of
health problems,” Dr. Shaker said. “With the Reza-Band,™ these patients can minimize or eliminate their symptoms. In addition, patients will benefit from improved sleep, lower health care costs and diminishing or avoiding the need for acid-reducing drugs.”

EERD is the result of a dysfunctional upper esophageal sphincter, a muscle that maintains a certain level of pressure to prevent reflux. This muscle  relaxes during sleep, but in patients with EERD, the muscle relaxes too much, allowing regurgitation to enter the throat. The Reza-Band™ is worn around the neck at night and adjusts to apply a slight, external pressure on the upper esophageal sphincter area, just below the Adam’s apple, to compensate for the lack of adequate pressure within the muscle.

The Reza Band™ exemplifies translational research, in which scientific study yields practical solutions to treat diseases.         

The synergy among partners in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) of Southeast Wisconsin was an asset in the development of the device and transfer of the technology. Dr. Shaker directs the CTSI, which includes the Medical College and seven other area academic and health care institutions as members. The Medical College’s Office of Technology Development helped match the project with investors.

Following FDA clearance and completion of clinical trials, Somna Therapeutics anticipates the Reza-Band™ may be available to hospitals, physician clinics and home health care agencies by the fall of 2013. 

Dr. Shaker is the Joseph E. Geenen Professor and Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, Director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin and Director of the Digestive Disease Center.