The disposable 1nhaler, been patented and trademarked in Scotland by Don Smith, a long-term asthmatic fed up with carrying bulky inhalers in his pockets, comes in the shape of a credit card and delivers a single dose when needed.
Smith, a full-time inventor, initially expected the gadget to be used solely for pharmaceutical applications. But having spent the last six months surveying the market, he sees its potential as more far-reaching.
The pharma industry has been researching inhaled dry-powder delivery systems for their drugs — an application that is quicker to take effect than a pill. Smith sees no reason for this method not to be applied in nutrition.
"You will absolutely be able to use it for a multitude of different vitamins and nutritional supplements in powdered doses,” he said.
Natural health products and functional foods could be broken down for inhalation, allowing their beneficial properties to enter the bloodstream efficiently.
This would be particularly effective in sports nutrition, for competitors needing a natural boost. He says it would also be useful for patients taking a nutritional regimen to counter the symptoms of, say, cystic fibrosis, as they could inhale powdered hemp extract for immediate relief.
“I was talking to somebody the other week who is an expert in honey”, Smith recalled. “He was saying that there is no reason why all the various active ingredients in honey can’t be created as a dry powder at almost any molecular size, and then breathed in.”
As an inventor who "wants to make a difference in the world", he is particularly keen for 1nhaler to be used in humanitarian missions in Asia, to deliver much-needed supplements to the poor.
The device, which he hopes will be made from a biodegradable card substrate, will be ideal for relief efforts, he says, because of its slim, compact design and ease of use. The use of dry powder will make for easy storage and will not require medical staff to be involved in distribution in remote areas.
Smith says he is considering focusing on India and China when the product goes to market, because of the "can-do" attitude he finds among commercial partners and regulators in the region, in contrast to the much slower processes employed in the west.
Currently, he is awaiting funding from Scottish Enterprise before he can begin product prototyping and clinical testing of the invention.
Unfortunately, he is not yet able to reveal the design of the 1nhaler, in order to protect his intellectual property. "Everybody is looking to patent your good ideas and make money off them," he said.