Inventors of the Pulmonica® Make a Statement on the High Cost of Product Development in Today’s Competitive Market

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As tax season approaches, fledgling businesses are assessing the return on their investment, and it is usually a sobering experience. Harmonica Techs staff comments on the hidden costs that make launching a product a risky proposition.

The high cost of product development - medical tradeshows like this one

Pulmonica booth at American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation

We are passionate about our product and confident that it is effective and easy to use, but we feel like a little dog in a big dog’s race. We’re using tax season to assess the wisdom of our current strategies and plan for the coming year.

Tax season is a good time to reevaluate priorities and expenses. The staff at Harmonica Techs recently introduced their patent-pending breathing exerciser, the Pulmonica, and the first full tax year has been eye-opening. “Many people need to breathe better, especially those with COPD, asthma, and allergies,” said Dana Keller, PhD, President and co-inventor of the Pulmonica. “Our pulmonary harmonica helps in an effective, meditative manner. That mental relaxation is certainly a welcome benefit as we launch the Pulmonica into the costly, competitive world of healthcare products alongside pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers. We hope that telling our story will help other entrepreneurs decide if they are ready to enter the fray.”

“The cost of having a prototype made and tested, then having enough products made to sample and study, varies widely depending on the complexity of the product,” Dr. Keller continued. “In our case, the Pulmonicas are private labeled by a leading harmonica manufacturer in Germany. We were very lucky to find a manufacturer who is so cooperative. Additionally, the cost to apply for a US patent is easily between $5,000 and $15,000, which is a relative bargain compared with a cost of over $50,000 for a European (EU) patent. If you are lucky enough to obtain one patent, which could take almost two years, the international filing fees can easily reach $100,000. And you have to be prepared to defend your patents from poachers, which can get really expensive, really fast.”

Then there are the costs of telling people about the great product. Mary Lou Keller, Vice President of Marketing for Harmonica Techs, described some of the difficulties: “It costs $10,000 for a booth at a major respiratory care tradeshow in the US, and $8,000 for a quarter page ad in a medical journal, where repetitive ads are the norm. Product liability insurance, marketing materials, web presence, tradeshows, press releases and internet advertising all add up to an astronomical figure, well over $50,000 to date.”

Product development is not for the faint of heart. Most products fail (up to 99% by some accounts.) The inventor must be convinced that the value of the patent is worth the investment of significant money and time. How to prove the value of a product? Research. Dr. Keller discussed some of the roadblocks: “Research is expensive, even if it’s just product samples to a local clinic or college, and it is rarely on schedule with your drive to market. Our Pulmonica is simple and noninvasive, but still needs a study published in a peer-reviewed journal article for a hospital to buy one, much less a thousand. This is where we are now, with three studies in the pipeline and that investment just about complete.”

Many entrepreneurs ultimately gamble their house, their children’s education, or their retirement on a brilliant idea. As Mary Lou added, “We are passionate about our product and confident that it is effective and easy to use, but we feel like a little dog in a big dog’s race. We’re learning about licensing, starting to think about investors, and keeping a close eye on expenses as we enter a new tax cycle. Shark Tank is on our radar, but only after the patent is issued and a study completed. We’ve been entrepreneurs for forty years, but this is the first product we’re trying to market globally, and it borders on terrifying. We’re using tax season to assess the wisdom of our current strategies and plan for the coming year.”

About the Pulmonica:
The Pulmonica is a specially constructed and tuned Pulmonary Harmonica that produces deep, resonant, meditative sounds that can be felt vibrating in the lungs and sinuses. No musical talent is needed to use it – just taking long, slow, deep, and complete breaths through the Pulmonica, which always sounds soothing. The Pulmonica is handcrafted for Harmonica Techs by Seydel, the world’s oldest harmonica manufacturer. Find more information at and at the Pulmonica page on The Kellers are available to speak to groups about harmonicas in health care and the Pulmonica. They may be contacted through their website,, or by calling 888-382-9283.

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Dana Keller, PhD
Harmonica Techs
+1 888-382-9283 Ext: 101
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