As originally seen in ucalgary.ca
New device to be inserted directly into the brain to help with treatment
For the approximately 300,000 Canadians who suffer from epilepsy, driving a car or keeping up with their children’s active lives are daily challenges. And for a portion of people with epilepsy, drugs don’t help. Brain surgery is the only option. Yet brain surgery is limited by 20-year-old technology.
A multidisciplinary team from the University of Calgary has developed a new prototype to update that technology to help surgeons make crucial decisions when operating on patients with epilepsy. As this year’s winner of TENET i2c (Innovation to Commercialization), a business pitch competition, Neuraura received close to $100,000 to turn their health research into a commercial product.
Pierre Wijdenes, PhD, graduate of the biomedical engineering program; and Colin Dalton, PhD, adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, developed an electronic chip with a dense net of neurosensors that can record brain activity at a higher resolution than commercially available devices, which will allow doctors a more detailed look at the brain to determine the areas to target to prevent seizures.
“It’s like going from a two-megapixel camera to a 20-megapixel camera,” says Dalton. “The lack of good data means that it’s challenging for neurosurgeons to work out exactly where they need to work. It’s difficult for them to define the area of the brain to operate on.”
Right now, measuring brain activity means keeping patients in hospital attached by electrodes and wires to machines like the electroencephalogram (EEG). In the future, with Neuraura’s micro-nanotechnology, patients will be able to go about their daily lives while the chip, implanted directly into the brain, records what’s happening inside the cranium and transmits the information wirelessly — a convenience both to the patient and to a hospital system where bed space is at a premium. The technology continues to be tested in animal models (rodents) and researchers are working toward regulatory approval for trials in humans.
An additional feature of this technology will allow neurosurgeons to access other case studies from around the world using cloud-based data, giving them better information to make a diagnosis.
The TENET i2c award is more than a one-day competition for prize money. Teams receive invaluable training and advice prior to the competition to develop their pitch and product.
“The expertise we received was just amazing,” says Wijdenes. ”Taking courses to learn about entrepreneurship has been the most valuable part (of the process). I know I can follow my dreams because I’ve learned the skills.” Read more about Pierre Wijdenes’ education journey at the University of Calgary.
Dalton adds he was amazed and humbled to win the award. “This would never have happened without cross-faculty collaboration. I met Pierre through my decade-long collaboration with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. Other faculties have a wealth of experience that we can take advantage of and TENET i2c is catalyzing it.”
The winner also receives an opportunity to create a detailed business strategy with Gowling WLG and MNP LLP. The two companies will help guide Neuraura through complicated regulatory processes and securing patents.
“I’m excited to be part of the medical technology network in Calgary,” says Wijdenes. “Everyone is so generous with mentorship and advice. It’s unique to Calgary and something to be proud of.”
The pair is now working toward introducing their product to the neuromodulation market, which is predicted to be bigger than the cardiac pacemaker market, says Dalton.
“This team has made something that is viable and is going to help in the long run,” says TENET i2c founder Ken Moore. “We really think this technology is going to make a difference.”
As originally seen in ucalgary.ca