Jun 4, 2021

The lowdown on cuffless blood pressure monitoring technology

3 min
Valencell President and Co-founder Dr. Steven LeBoeuf assesses the pros and cons of various cuffless blood pressure monitoring technologies

Hypertension has been dubbed the “silent killer”, because it has no obvious symptoms, leaving many  people unaware that they are at risk before it’s too late. According to the WHO, over one billion people around the world have high blood pressure. In the US alone, it was the primary cause of death for more than 494,873 people in 2018. 

Dr. Steven LeBoeuf believes that new advancements in emerging technology such as smart watches, arm bands, earbuds and even hearing aids will substantially improve health outcomes. 

"These devices will soon enable users to track their blood pressure daily, seamlessly and painlessly, enabling early diagnosis, intervention, continuous health management, and hence better health outcomes at substantially lower costs" he says. 

We take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the main methods used today. 

Pulse transit time/pulse arrival time

Pulse transit time refers to the time it takes a pulse wave to travel between two arterial sites. The speed at which this arterial pressure wave travels is directly proportional to blood pressure. It requires two sensors, typically ECG and PPG sensors, either contained within a single device or across multiple devices. The Apple Watch is an example of this. 


  • This is the most common cuffless blood pressure approach
  • It's heavily researched
  • Some devices are FDA approved  


  • Requires two spaced-apart sensors
  • Requires frequent calibration
  • It's extremely sensitive to motion
  • Non-autonomous  and  non-ambulatory

PPG sensors

This method uses optical and inertial sensors to detect blood flow patterns and dynamics. These sensors are widely used in hundreds of millions of wearable devices today. Valencell's device is a PPG blood pressure monitor.  


  • There's a variety of forms and sizes, so it can be worn on almost any body location. With only one sensor, it also has high wearability. 
  • Can be calibration-free
  • Reasonable motion tolerance
  • It's robust to diverse environments
  • Autonomous and enables ambulatory monitoring
  • Supported by years of R&D


  • Some development is still required
  • Not yet FDA approved
  • There is minimal published research to prove it is effective across populations

Radio frequency

This touch-free device uses radio waves to measure mechanical motion and electromagnetic signals from the body's organs, as well as blood flow. Engineers at Cornell University are behind some of this technology. 


  • Low power consumption
  • Does not require direct contact with the skin or body 


  • There is minimal published research showing efficacy across populations
  • It's extremely sensitive to motion
  • Difficult to integrate into wearables

Pressure sensors

This type of contactless, wearable monitor uses a combination of pressure sensors and optical sensors to measure blood flow and blood pressure, like those produced by Merit Sensor. 


  • Well established science 
  • Potential for integration in multiple device types including smart phones


  • This can only be used for spot checks, as it doesn't allow for continuous monitoring
  • It's not motion tolerant and is generally limited to reading from fingertip


Using imaging technologies such as transdermal optical imaging, the blood pressure is measured by detecting blood flow information via a smartphone camera. These can also detect blood pressure through minor skin colour changes. 


  • Contactless
  • Can be calibration-free


  • Limited to specific environments
  • Extremely sensitive to motion and lighting
  • It's non-wearable
  • Non-autonomous and non-ambulatory
  • Substantial development is still required for commercialisation

Cuffless monitoring

Cuffless blood pressure monitoring is widely used across consumer, medical and other market segments. For consumer markets, these appeal as they offer blood pressure monitoring with multiple other measurements. 

The medical market is implementing cuffless monitoring to augment BP cuff readings as a replacement for blood pressure cuff or arterial lines in operating rooms, to reduce invasive surgeries. Wearables in combination with digital therapeutics to manage chronic conditions such as hypertension is an additional solution. 

LeBoeuf  says the next five years will have a bigger impact on hypertension management than the last 100 years across multiple dimensions, specifically the impact from a technology development perspective. It will also have a bigger impact on total lives saved, in terms of medical costs per % of GDP. 

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Jun 22, 2021

Bachem turns 50 - a timeline

3 min
As Bachem turns 50, we take a look at the company's history

Bachem, a supplier to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. We take a look at the Swiss company's history.  

1971 - beginnings

Bachem is founded by entrepreneur Peter Grogg in Liestal, a small town near Basel in Switzerland. Grogg started the firm with just two employees, and with a focus on peptide synthesis - peptides are composed of amino acids that have a variety of functions treating health conditions such as cancer and diabetes. 

1977 - 1981 - early growth

Bachem moves its headquarters to the Swiss town of Bubendorf, with eight employees. In 1978 the company produces peptides for use in medicines for the first time. In 1981 production capacity triples and the workforce grows to 150. 

 1987 - 1996 - worldwide expansion

The company expands into the US with Bachem Bioscience, Inc. in Philadelphia. To strengthen its presence in Europe, Bachem opens sales and marketing centres in Germany in 1988. 

Further sales centres open in France in 1993. By 1995 the company employs 190 people. In 1996 it acquires the second largest manufacturer of peptides in the world and forms Bachem California with a site in Torrance. 

 1998 - 2003 - Bachem goes public

Bachem company goes public and lists shares on the Swiss Stock Exchange. Further acquisitions include Peninsula Laboratories, Inc, based in California, and  Sochinaz SA, a Swiss-based manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients.  By 2001, the company has 500 employees and sales reach 141 million CHF.

In 2003 the organisation is given a new legal holding structure to support its continued growth, which remains in place to this day. 

2007 - 2013 - acquisitions

Bachem acquires a brand by Merck Biosciences for ready-to-use clinical trial materials and related services. 

In 2013, together with GlyTech, Inc. Bachem announces the development of a new amino acid that can help to treat multiple sclerosis, with a world market of more than $4 billion. 

In 2015 it acquires the American Peptide Company (APC), which becomes integrated into Bachem Americas. 

2016 - 2019 - a global leader

In 2016 the group opens a new building dedicated to R&D projects and small series production in Bubendorf. With a total of 1,022 employees, the workforce exceeds the 1,000 mark for the first time in the company’s history. Sales are over the 200 million mark for the first time at 236.5 million CHF.
Bachem expands into Asia with the establishment of a new company in Tokyo called Bachem Japan K.K. 

By 2019 Bachem has a growing oligonucleotide portfolio - these are DNA molecules used in genetic testing, research, and forensics. It is hoped this will become a significant product range in the future. 

2020 - COVID-19

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Bachem secures its supply of active ingredients, and even increases it in critical areas. Sales exceed the 400 million Swiss franc mark for the first time, and  272 new employees are hired.  

2021 - a milestone anniversary

Bachem celebrates its 50th anniversary and position as a global leader in the manufacture of peptides. While it  remains headquartered in Bubendorf, the company employs 1,500 people at six locations worldwide. In the next five years there are  plans to continue expanding. 

Commemorating the company's anniversary, Kuno Sommer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said: "Bachem's exceptional success story from a small laboratory to a global market leader is closely linked to Peter Grogg's values, and has been shaped by innovation, consistent quality and cost awareness, as well as by entrepreneurial vision."

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