Deadhead, SeQual tackle age-old issue

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SAN DIEGO – Jeff Chimenti, the long-time keyboard player for The Dead (formerly the Greatful Dead), has a new take on the old adage: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

“I like to say, ‘My mother was the necessity for the invention,’” said Chimenti, who has teamed up with San Diego-based SeQual Technologies to bring to market the Sleep Comfort Care Pad.

The gel pad, which SeQual begain distributing last fall, is a “low cost, effective means” of solving an age-old problem for CPAP users: healing and/or preventing sores on the bridge of the nose caused by the user’s mask. The Care Pad works by creating a barrier between skin and mask. It also helps reduce leaks, said SeQual CEO Ron Richard.

“From the market trials we did, 15% to 20% of CPAP users have acute or chronic problems with sores and irritation that affect their compliance,” Richard said. “The Comfort Pad has really been selling well. People are looking at it as something that can really help them.”

Chimenti knows all about the challenges CPAP users face when it comes to their masks. His mother developed a sore on the bridge of her nose the first time she used a mask.

“It was overnight—it was unbelievable,” Chimenti said. “It was like she got punched.  I took it upon myself to see if I could help out some way.”

He tried everything—DuoDerm, bunion pads, corn pads, different kinds of foam—but nothing provided the necessary protective barreir. He mulled the problem over with The Dead’s top roadie and “resident MacGyver,” A.J. Santella, who suggested “this gel pad that sticks to the drum head and dampens the vibration.”

It worked.

“She healed from using that gel, and the doctor said, ‘What is this stuff?’” Chimenti said.

The medical-grade gel is an FDA-approved polymer that includes a skin-friendly mineral oil, Chimenti said.

Santella eventually designed a mold for the comfort pad, which lays across the bridge of the nose and out to the cheek bones. Santella and Chimenti founded a company, Chi-San, and hooked up with SeQual through a business contact.

The Comfort Pad costs $14.95, and each pad is intended to last 30 days.

For SeQual, a company best known for the Eclipse portable oxygen concentrator, the Comfort Pad is the first of a new line of ancillary cash products intended to enhance compliance with sleep therapy, Richard said. Other products in the pipeline will address head gear (how to keep if from falling off at night), a system that keeps tubing from getting tangled and using lavender-scented material to help CPAP patients sleep better.

“We don’t want to get into CPAP and compete head to head with machines and masks,” Richard said. “We’d have to put a sizeable investment to get any traction at all. To me the low hanging fruit is the stuff that is under the radar.”