Exclusive: Covidien acquires BioHarness-maker Zephyr Technology

By Brian Dolan
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Zephyr Covidien BioPatchMedical device giant Covidien has acquired sports and medical wearables company Zephyr Technology, MobiHealthNews has learned. The company has raised more than $13 million since its founding in 2003 -- back when health-sensing wearables were a relative rarity. Zephyr's investors included 3M New Ventures, Alsop Louie Partners and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital.

Neither Covidien nor Zephyr has announced the deal. MobiHealthNews reached out to Zephyr Technology for comment but has not received a response.

Zephyr's products include the BioHarness, a wearable chest strap that monitors heart rate, breathing rate, ECG, and posture. Zephyr also offers a bandaid-like sensor, called BioPatch, which has similar capabilities and is supported by companion software called ZephyrLife. In 2010, the FDA cleared Zephyr's BioHarness with a 510(k), but that device is its direct-to-consumer offering too. The peel-and-stick sensor BioPatch, on the other hand is prescription-only.

In a recent SEC filing Covidien notes that it completed three undisclosed acquisitions during the past six months. Those had a total consideration of about $128 million, according to the company. Covidien also noted that one of these acquisitions finalized so recently that it had not yet determined its valuation, but that it did not believe that any of these undisclosed acquisitions would have a material effect on its finances. 

Zephyr's technology has had a number of high-profile users: CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta worked out while wearing the BioHarness for a news segment. A version of the technology was used as part of the rescue of the Chilean miners during the famous 2010 incident. Zephyr's technology has also been used by professional athletes, especially football players, as part of training regimens and the NFL Scouting Combines, but also by Major League Baseball players, NBA players, Formula 1 drivers, and more.

In 2012, Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a clinical trial to monitor women giving birth while wearing the BioHarness. The results of the trial were going to help determine how quickly MGH’s Center for Global Health would move it to Uganda. Last year researchers at Baylor began a pilot to combat drug abuse with Zephyr technology: The harness monitors the heart rates of addicts to verify that the addict stays clean.

Early on in its development the company's technology was used by NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security to help train astronauts, US special forces, and first responders.

While Zephyr has not made any public announcements that indicate that it has been acquired, the company did make two small changes to its "About" page at the end of 2013: It no longer lists Qualcomm Life as a partner, and it no longer refers to itself as a "small" business.