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Fowler College of Business student, Chad Vardas, designs product to measure breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. Fowler College of Business student, Chad Vardas, designs product to measure breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
 


Quest to Relieve Anxiety Leads Student into the Zone

Fowler College of Business student Chad Vardas has been working on technology to help mitigate anxiety disorders and other conditions.
By Suzanne Finch
 

Chad Vardas’ journey to entrepreneurship—and a prize-winning product to ease anxiety disorders—started as a personal quest. 
 
After being diagnosed with the condition in high school, Vardas found that prescription drugs only made things worse. His research into alternative solutions led him to Erik Peper, a Berkeley-based expert in biofeedback.
 
Biofeedback is a holistic approach to medical treatment through which patients learn to control bodily functions such as muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate in order to relieve stress and anxiety. Later, Peper would introduce Vardas to Richard Gevirtz, the San Diego-based medical doctor who established the science of heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback. 
 
While he explored solutions to relieve his anxiety, Vardas also was looking into options for college. During a visit to San Diego State University, he met Bernhard Schroeder, management lecturer and program director for SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. 
 
“Ultimately, Bern sold me on SDSU by describing the programs and entrepreneurial philosophy of the university,” said Vardas, a management student in the SDSU Fowler College of Business.   
 
After Vardas moved to San Diego, regular collaborations with Gevirtz helped him to refine the technology that would underlie his product, a watch-like device using a proprietary sensor to measure respiration at the wrist. Users can view, monitor and sync their breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. An adaptive breathing guide embedded in the device helps them make the necessary adjustments to their breathing and heart patterns to mitigate stress, anxiety and depression.
 
In the spring of 2017, while still a freshman, Vardas introduced his product concept, called Zone, at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center’s VentureStart Competition. To his surprise and excitement, Zone won. 
 
Shortly thereafter, the first product prototype was built, and the Zone team has spent the past 18 months preparing for their launch. They aim to have at least eight patent applications filed by the end of 2019. 
 
While the company is working out technical and intellectual property details, Vardas plans to gain commercial validation by selling a limited amount of Zones through Kickstarter and Amazon before summer. The company’s ultimate goal is a licensing agreement for the technology. 
 
While his business is moving in the right direction, Vardas is quick to point out to other young entrepreneurs that the path to success involves sweat equity and creative thinking.
 
“Find something you are passionate about, do excessive amounts of research on the subject, and surround yourself with subject matter experts,” he said. “Only after you become an expert yourself, can you start the creative process where you can build on your product ideas until you’ve found a marketable solution.”