Knowledge Translation—The Klearway™ Appliance

After completing a PhD thesis titled “The Neural Control of Tongue Posture,” and joining the UBC Faculty of Dentistry in 1976, Lowe’s basic research studies on airway size and tongue muscle activity eventually led to his development of the FDA-approved Klearway device and first commercial sales in 1995.

During sleep, the tongue falls back against the back of the throat, obstructing the airway. The Klearway appliance works by keeping the teeth together and holding the lower jaw and tongue forward to open the airway, allowing patients to remain comfortable during sleep. A large clinical trial, funded by the Canadian government, demonstrated a 71 percent success rate for treating sleep apnea.

The KLEARWAY™ appliance for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

The KLEARWAY™ appliance for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

Klearway’s outstanding clinical and commercial success illustrates the multiple benefits that can result from the translation of basic research findings into an application that significantly improves the health of patients. “Direct Klearway manufacturing and sales to dentists have generated revenues to UBC of $12.6 million over the past 20 years, resulting in a myriad of economic and social benefits for Canada. Royalties have been used in part to employ a series of graduate students, postdoctoral Fellows and research staff, and have resulted in the publication of a significant number of articles in dental sleep medicine,” says Lowe.

Dental office sales of more than 12,500 Klearway appliances in Canada and over 40,000 worldwide have provided a significant number of jobs for Canadians and benefited tens of thousands of patients. Lowe’s invention has also had a much broader influence on the respiratory health and quality of sleep for countless patients and their bedmates by creating a market that now features more than 100 competing oral appliances.

Read the faculty profile about Dr. Alan A. Lowe >>

Read “Device stops snoring, rests sleepers’ fears” from UBC Reports (December 1998)

Read “Sleep Apnea: Children May Benefit From UBC Device” Prof. Alan Lowe’s invention, an oral appliance called Klearway™, is being tested to treat sleep apnea in children.

Read more about Alan Lowe and Fernanda Almeida’s research in the fall 2011 Impressions magazine article “And to All a Good Night! UBC Leaders in Dental Sleep Medicine.”