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, an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Neuro-ICU, 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.
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. Dr. Seifi’s invention is intellectual property owned by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System. UT Health San Antonio licensed this technology to a company in which Mark Cuban, billionaire business investor and owner of basketball’s Dallas Mavericks, will now invest. As part of the licensing agreement, UT Health San Antonio is receiving royalties from the company.
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