Neuro-intensivist Ali Seifi, MD, won big on ABC’s Shark Tank

Hiccups relief tool
The Forced Inspiratory Suction and Swallow Tool (FISST) is designed to stop hiccups in one to two attempts. It was invented at UT Health San Antonio. Image courtesy JAMA Network Open

SAN ANTONIO — Ali Seifi, MD, a neuro-intensivist at UT Health San Antonio, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on Jan. 21, winning a $250,000 offer for 20% equity from Mark Cuban for his hiccup-relieving invention.

Dr. Seifi invented a straw-like device that a person suffering from hiccups can use to sip water through from a cup or bottle. The device was the subject of an article in the June 18, 2021 issue of JAMA Network Open, a publication of the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network. The article, titled “Evaluation of the Forced Inspiratory Suction and Swallow Tool to Stop Hiccups,” addresses the findings of a four-month cross-sectional study of 249 participants from multiple countries. In the study, the device — scientifically labeled the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool (FISST)” — stopped hiccups in nearly 92% of cases and was rated favorably compared with home remedies across all demographic characteristics, hiccup frequencies and hiccup duration.

Photo of Ali Seifi, MD, with Marilyn Moritz of KSAT-TV
Ali Seifi, MD, and Marilyn Moritz of KSAT 12 show off his hiccup-relieving invention in the Department of Neurosurgery conference room. Moritz reported a story on the device in November 2021.

 

Hiccups can be chronic for patients with cancer, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain or thoracic injury, or after surgery requiring anesthesia. They can be debilitating, causing pain and exhaustion. Even temporary hiccups caused from consumption of food, alcoholic or carbonated drinks, or experiencing sudden excitement can be annoying and embarrassing.

“After I witnessed my own neurology patients suffering from hiccups without an effective treatment, I was inspired to develop a safe and effective device that would be simple to use and easily available to all people,” Dr. Seifi said. “When you forcefully sip water through the device, it keeps the phrenic and vagus nerves occupied, so they don’t have enough time to cause unwanted spasms in the diaphragm. This interruption stops the hiccups.”

With an estimated viewing audience of nearly 7 million, the Sharks on Shark Tank give entrepreneurs the chance to secure business deals to commercialize their products nationally. Dr. Seifi worked with the Office of Technology Commercialization’s John Fritz throughout the years-long journey to patent his idea and license it to a company.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also referred to as UT Health San Antonio, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated 39,700 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields, and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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