Sleep apnoea — or sleep suffocation as some have taken to calling it — is big business on the ASX, spanning billion-dollar ResMed (ASX:RMD) to a group of small caps.

Oventus (ASX:OVN), one of those small caps, is the latest this month to add its news to the market noise, saying 14 sites had started using its software that enables dentists and sleep experts to work together to treat sleep apnoea.

It says the deal pipeline has increased to more than $33m from $20m as at December 31, 2019.

Sleep apnoea happens when a person’s throat is partly or completely blocked while they are asleep. At its most mild it results in snoring, but at its worst a person can stop breathing for anywhere between a few and 90 seconds before they wake up.

It can cause long-term health problems such as heart attacks.

Oventus and rival Somnomed (ASX:SOM) are the two ASX small caps of note in the sector, making cheaper mouthguard-like devices to tackle sleep apnoea.

 

Oventus’ collaboration software, which it calls a lab-in-lab model, has been contracted to 36 sites in the US. It offers a new way to get its product into the hands of customers by getting dentists and sleep specialists to work together, rather than pitching to both groups separately to access the same customer.

It says early data indicates that it takes three months for about half of patients seen in an initial consultation to move onto treatment, as they proceed with insurance pre-authorisation and then rebook for treatment.

There were about 140 patient consultations up to the end of January and unit sales through the lab-in-lab program doubled from December to January. Patients scheduled to be scanned in February are sitting at more than double January unit sales.

The ASX’s biggest sleep company, ResMed, cites a global market of 936 million people with mild to severe sleep apnoea — 54 million in the US — with about 80 per cent of them undiagnosed and untreated.

It’s large enough for billion-dollar hearing implant company Cochlear to look at the sector.

Today the hearing implant maker said it invested another €8m ($13m) in Nyxoah S.A., a Belgian health-tech company which is making a neurostimulator implant that is placed in the tongue.

Cochlear originally invested €13m in 2018 via its innovation fund.

In other ASX health news:

Starpharma (ASX:SPL) has launched VivaGel BV in Asia, a market of 1.5 billion women. VivaGel BV is a non-antibiotic therapy for treatment and prevention of bacterial vaginosis, the most common vaginal condition worldwide and twice as common as thrush, but often recurrent and sometimes hard to get rid of.

Azure Healthcare (ASX:AZV) has signed a further three-year purchase and maintenance agreement to provide its market leading IP nurse call system and Tacera Pulse software platform to one of the largest healthcare service providers in the United States.