A spin-off company from the University of Maryland is working to develop the world’s first wearable artificial lung. Breethe, Inc. has support from UM Ventures, which helps bring start-ups from the University of Maryland together with financial investors and other resources.

Lung disease is the third most common cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer, resulting in nearly 400,000 deaths a year. The device is intended for out-of-hospital use, providing an oxygenating blood pump. As a wearable device, it will allow patients to resume their normal activities instead of being confined to a bed in a clinical setting. According to the company’s press release, the device has the potential to improve patient care and quality of life.

Initially, the portable artificial lung will be targeted at patients with respiratory failure or cardiopulmonary collapse. It has the potential to be useful across a broad range of severe pulmonary disease. The company has closed its first round of funding, but the announcement makes no mention of a target date for shipping a commercial product, which still could be years away.