Escondido-based Kaer Biotherapeutics received a $300,000 federal grant to help it develop medical technology that could potentially help premature babies and adults with respiratory problems.

Kaer Biotherapeutics’ CEO, Donovan Yeates, presented the invention at the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia on June 3.

The company’s technology puts surfactant — a crucial element for lung function — into an aerosol state so it can be sent into the lungs. Kaer Biotherapeutics says its device could be used to treat neonatal respiratory distress syndrome as well as its counterpart in adults.

Currently, doctors send liquid surfactant into the lungs via a catheter. Kaer Biotherapeutics describes that procedure as slow and traumatic.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health awarded Kaer Biotherapeutics a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase 1 grant. The company made the news public on May 22. Kaer Biotherapeutics has previously received SBIR grants for phase 1 and phase 2.

The company says its Supraer platform technology converts liquids containing active pharmaceutical agents in viscous solutions — such as biologics — into an aerosol form and then delivers them as concentrated, pure, solid-phase aerosols at selected diameters between 1.5 and 5 microns.

A micron is one thousandth of a millimeter, the size of some bacteria. By contrast, a strand of human hair can be more than a hundred microns thick.

Depending on the size selected, these aerosols are suitable for deposition in the conducting airways or deep lung, the company said.

“This latest SBIR award further expands Kaer’s capabilities for providing lifesaving aerosol therapies for critically ill patients with compromised respiratory function, including a system for treating adult acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),” according to a statement issued by Kaer Biotherapeutics.

ARDS has a 40% mortality rate with no approved drug treatments.

Yeates received his Ph.D. in medical biophysics from the University of Toronto in 1975. He completed his career in academia as a bioengineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was also a research physiologist at a Veterans Administration Medical Center in Chicago.