SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio doctor who invented a device he claims relieves most people of their hiccups is partnering with Texas billionaire Mark Cuban to mass-produce the invention.
Dr. Ali Seifi, a neuro-intensivist at UT Health San Antonio, appeared on the ABC show “Shark Tank” on Friday and won a $250,000 offer from Cuban for 20% equity of his hiccup-relieving device, the Hiccaway.
Seifi’s journey to becoming an inventor began the day when he was making hospital rounds and saw a patient suffering.
“(The patient) said, ‘Doctor, you know, I’m very okay with my brain surgery, but what hurts me now is this hiccup.’ He turned to me and said, ‘Doctor, can you help me please?’” Seifi said in an interview with KSAT 12 News consumer reporter Marilyn Moritz in November.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 92% of people with hiccups who used the device reported that it did relieve their hiccups better than home remedies.
While working on the design, Seifi was suddenly inspired as he watched his son suck on a McDonald’s McFlurry straw.
The McFlurry straw will not stop hiccups, but Seifi was inspired by the engineering and design.
What he came up with was an L-shaped flat, fat plastic straw device with mouthpiece one end and a tiny hold on the other. The precisely-sized hole is the pressure valve, and when the hiccuper sips water through it, he has to suck five times harder than normal. The pressure lowers the diaphragm and interrupts the cycle between the phrenic nerve that controls the diaphragm and the vagus nerve, which controls the epiglottis in the throat, he explained. In short, it fools the brain.
“Shark Tank” gives entrepreneurs the chance to secure business deals to commercialize their products nationally. According to UT Health, 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.