Vivos Advances Healthy Sleep By Addressing Sleep Apnea
Ask anyone the three or four highest requirements of a healthy life and you’ll get similar answers. Water. Air. Food. Sleep. Coincidentally, I wrote an article last week about the importance of clean air to survival.
This week I met a company that focuses on another two of these critical requirements: breathing and sleep. Vivos Therapeutics addresses disordered breathing while sleeping (specifically, obstructive sleep apnea or OSA). Its co-founder and CEO, Kirk Huntsman, is a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness industry who has founded and led several private equity-backed firms in this space.
Two years ago Huntsman met Dr. Dave Singh, holder of three doctorate degrees and a pioneer in the emerging field of craniofacial epigenetics, the study of external or environmental modifications to DNA that affect how and when the body’s cells “read” their accompanying genes.
The two soon realized the need and opportunity to help the many people who suffer from OSA and other forms of disordered sleep. While approximately 2 million patients are diagnosed annually with OSA, it is estimated that 40% of the U.S. adult population suffer from sleep disorders. The two soon realized the need and opportunity to help the many people who suffer from OSA and other forms of disordered sleep. While approximately 2 million patients are diagnosed annually with OSA, it is estimated that 40% of the U.S. adult population suffer from sleep disorders.
Dr. Singh’s years of research and clinical testing have yielded several breakthroughs in treating the ubiquitous “stealth” condition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With his deep background in health and wellness, Huntsman was the perfect person to assist in bringing these breakthroughs to market.
Together, the two formed Vivos in 2016. With a small set of founding shareholders they invested approximately $1.5 million to get the company started and have raised $3.5 million since. (The latest round was oversubscribed by $500,000, Huntsman notes.)
Proper breathing through the nose is necessary for the restful sleep we require for optimal health. But some 18 million American adults (and an equal number of children, according to estimates) have a chronic disorder characterized by repeated airway obstruction while sleeping. As the body compensates by mouth breathing, nitric oxide decreases, blood pressure rises, hormone balances change, and other essential and restorative body processes halt. Patients with OSA will actually stop breathing for at least 10 seconds multiple times per hour and often wake up gasping for air, snoring, wheezing, or choking.
Here’s where Vivos can help with a new modality for OSA treatment–a patented and customized set of oral appliances that promotes proper positioning of the upper and lower jaws and widening of the oral and nasal cavities to maintain an open airway to allow restful sleep. The treatment can lead to an all natural and noninvasive remodeling of the bony and soft tissues surrounding the human airway, offering patients the prospect of a lifetime of optimal air flow and airway capacity and restorative sleep.
Vivos may be the first truly permanent solution to our modern OSA epidemic. It offers a far more appealing alternative than the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices that consign users to a lifelong requirement of nightly wear and diminished effectiveness over time. In contrast, patients treated with Vivos appliances often report a complete restoration of normal breathing during sleep (which includes quiet breathing, no snoring, and restful sleep). Studies have shown that after 12 to 18 months, most patients return to normal sleep and breathing without the continued use of appliances or CPAP machines.
A note to parents: children with sleep disordered breathing (SDB) often exhibit different symptoms from adults. The indications that a child may suffer from SDB include mouth breathing, snoring, daytime sleepiness, crowded or crooked teeth, behavioral issues, chronic allergies, difficulties in school, and bedwetting. Studies have suggested that as many as 50% of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD may actually suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and that much of their learning difficulties and behavioral problems may be a consequence of chronic fragmented sleep. Children exhibiting even one of these symptoms should be evaluated for SDB by a qualified clinician, Huntsman says.
For adults, OSA has been causally related to life-threatening conditions including high blood pressure, cardiac events, diabetes and stroke, as well as mood and memory disorders. It also has recently been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, a key issue for America’s aging population.
Leveraging an extensive background in entrepreneurial success.
Vivos is not Huntsman’s first foray into the health and wellness industry. His first venture in the dental space was as a dental practice broker, he says. “I had bought a licensed territory from AFTCO Associates (an organization that helps dentists to buy, sell or merge practices) that included Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston,” he said. Within 12 months, he’d become the top producing licensee in the nation.
- Find the right opportunity in a space that you know. “My biggest lesson for others is to stay in a space you know and wait for the right opportunity,” Huntsman says. “It took me several years of brokering dental practices before I felt ready to own and operate these businesses well. When the time felt right, I moved to what seemed to be the next logical step, but within the line of work I knew best.” By the time Huntsman was finished at Dental One (now Dental One Partners), the company had reached gross revenues of $250 million and nearly 1,600 employees in 15 states. In many ways, Vivos is very similar to the DSO business in which I had so much success. “No one builds a truly great business alone, and so you have to attract and keep the very best people,” he says.
- The right team is vital. In Huntsman’s experience, the kind of rare humans he requires have high integrity, are extremely talented, and are driven to the same standard of excellence as Huntsman, without compromise. “Whenever I’ve misjudged someone in whom I placed a high level of trust, I’ve been burned, and it hurt,” he says. “I’ve learned to be much more careful about who I do business with. At Vivos, I’ve assembled a first rate management team hand-picked from my previous ventures. I know these people and they know me. Together we know what to do and how to build a great company.”
- Passion is paramount. Passion is one of the key traits for the team members Huntsman requires.”Vivos is more than just another business venture for each of us,” he says. “It is our mission and our passion. We truly believe we can change the world and help millions of people who suffer from this debilitating curse of sleep apnea. Our individual passion and commitment to the cause has carried us through the lean times, the struggles and the times we’ve wanted to quit and ‘go get a real job’. We are driven by our passion to take our technology to market and be a part of the largest opportunity any of us have ever seen or been a part of before.”
- Entrepreneurship is lonely. Another thing Huntsman has come to know in his journey is that being an entrepreneur means you often have to go it alone. “There will be times when no one else will see your vision, or worse, they may see the vision, but doubt you are the one who can pull it off,” he says. “This is perhaps the most difficult part of the journey–the part where you refuse to quit, even when quitting seems like the most rational way forward.” Over many years, Huntsman has learned to trust his instincts, and plow forward in the faith that the right people and opportunities will appear at the times they are needed. “For me, that is how my best ventures have gone,” he says. “And once again, with Vivos, the right people have appeared with the unique talents, contacts, and resources to take us to the next level. Frankly, that’s one of the greatest things about being an entrepreneur–the element of providential serendipity to what we do.”
Sleep is one of the most important pillars to our health, yet as many as 40% of us are ignoring the symptoms of disordered sleep and OSA and the negative impacts on our lives. As an entrepreneur who is increasingly passionate about health and wellness I have no doubt that millions of people will benefit if the Vivos technology and team can succeed.
David K. Williams is Chairman and Founder of Restore CryotherapyMountain West and author of “The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning: Tying Soft Traits to Hard Results,”