Samay (pronounced Sam-eye, which means to “breathe deeply” in the ancient Latin American language Quechua), is a small business working to help people better manage respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The company, founded by Maria Artunduaga, M.D., M.P.H., M.T.M. developed a wearable chest patch, supported by an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform, to help patients monitor their lung function at home. With few products or solutions like this on the market, Samay is hoping to improve the standard of care for COPD.

Fast fact: Samay is supported in part by the NHLBI Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, which helps fund small businesses so they can fast-track research that prevents, detects, and treats heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.

photo Dr. Maria Artunduaga, founder and CEO of Samay
Dr. Maria Artunduaga, founder and CEO of Samay

Sweet inspiration: For Dr. Artunduaga, Samay’s success is personal—her grandmother died from an exacerbation, or flare up, from COPD. Fifty percent of exacerbations are never caught or treated, so Dr. Artunduaga, who is also Samay’s CEO, was inspired to find a way to help families and caregivers of COPD patients have more resources to monitor COPD. As a Latina and a woman, she says she is driven by a passion to show members of underrepresented populations that these opportunities are possible if they work hard, stay resilient, and persevere. “Just because I am not like your typical CEO doesn't mean that I cannot do the job,” she says. “I have my own cultural traits and things that I cannot change about myself. I’m always trying to portray my cultural legacy with everything that I do.”

Big impact. Thanks in part to funding from the SBIR program, Dr. Artunduaga and her team were able to improve their prototype for the chest patch and build an app to track patient data. Samay has completed a feasibility trial with patients and is starting to test the prototype at home during exacerbations. They are hoping to have enough data to submit for another grant from NHLBI by January 2024.

Bright future. Dr. Artunduaga says she wants to grow her company and transform COPD management, so that patients can live better and longer. She also hopes to take Samay global to countries that need COPD monitoring most.