One day, patients doing exercises to strengthen their breathing might be able to use an electronic game to encourage them to push on in therapy.

An Albany-based company that makes a breath-controlled electronic musical instrument controller is looking to branch out into medical devices, as one of dozens of Capital Region companies to receive research grants recently from the National Institutes of Health.

The growth of My Musical Machines, which for the last five years has sold a musical device called a Jamboxx, is helping fuel the Capital Region’s continued growth as a life sciences center. NIH last year granted the company nearly $1 million out of a total of about $54.6 million awarded to regional companies and academic institutions.

The company is seeking to expand the potential uses of its Jamboxx, which is a harmonica-like device that attaches to a computer to allows someone using their breath to control digital sounds for hundreds of different potential instruments.

Now, the company hopes to reconfigure the device so that it uses interactive gaming and music as part of respiratory therapy, where patients must do repetitive breathing exercises to help maintain lung function and clear mucus.

“We are just starting clinical trials now, and it is a long road for approval of medical devices,” said company CEO Dwight Cheu. “Through this funding, NIH has said it believes this potential use shows a lot of promise, and it is now up to us to prove that out.”

The potential new use could help post-operative surgery patients as well as people suffering from quadriplegia and other spinal cord injuries; high-level motor neuron diseases, such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and multiple sclerosis; and lung disorders such as cystic fibrosis.

Companies like My Musical Machines, which outgrew is original space in Scotia and is now part of the Biomed Accelerator and Commercialization Center at Albany Medical Center, are part of a growing life sciences sector in the regional economy.

Such businesses and institutions employed about 4,365 people in 2016, up about 25 percent in just five years, according to the Center for Economic Growth, a private not-for-profit development organization. The average job is paying more than $109,000.

“From advancing vaccines and developing drugs for nervous system disorders to pioneering more efficient ways to manufacture biopharmaceuticals and to detect cancer, the Capital Region is making its mark on the life sciences,” said CEG President and CEO Andrew Kennedy.

During the last four years, NIH has issued more than $212 million in research grants regionally, with about three-quarters of that going to large institutions like the Wadsworth Center of the state Health Department, Albany Medical Center, the University at Albany, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Several years of grant money to Albany Medical Center have funded research that may help people recover more quickly from the flu, while also being less prone to other infections, said Dr. Dennis Metzger, chairman of the center’s department for immunology and microbial disease.

Current research being funded is exploring for ways that medications might be used to instruct a certain type of white blood cell, which defends the lungs once the flu strikes, not to also deactivate another function that helps repair damaged tissue, he said.

Other instructions are being sought that could stop the white blood cells from reducing their defensive response to non-flu bacterial infections that sometimes strike patients already ill with flu, he added. While the flu is rarely fatal, patients with flu can succumb to other infections.

About $2 million in NIH grants have supported this research during the last four years, said Metzger.