The Epilepsy Foundation’s Shark Tank competition seeks to advance innovative ideas in epilepsy and seizure treatment and care. The winners will use their prize to accelerate their innovation to the next phase of development and closer to being accessible to people living with epilepsy.
2014 Shark Tank Entries
$75,000 Judge’s Choice Award
Oren Knopfmacher, PhD
Oren Knopfmacher obtained his PhD in experimental physics from the University of Basel in Switzerland. In his dissertation, he focused on novel types of bio-chemical (nano-) sensors. Subsequently, he moved to California where he worked for more than two years as a postdoc on new types of flexible biosensors at Stanford University in the group of Prof. Zhenan Bao. After attending the Ignite program of the Stanford business school, he founded Avails Medical, Inc. to make his sensor technology available to the larger community to improve their quality of life.
Avails Medical, Inc., which is developing an in-home, non-invasive device for monitoring anti-seizure drug levels in salvia
In using anti-seizure medications (ASMs), a cornerstone for the treatment of epilepsy, finding the right drug and dosage is a trial-and-error process. Patients’ response varies according to their metabolism and other determining factors and finding the right dose can take up to a year.
The current method to monitor drug levels require invasive, blood-drawing procedures performed by professionals in clinics, and it often leaves the patients exposed to side effects or ineffective drug levels in the body. Further, they are time consuming and expensive. The largest hurdle, however, lies in infrequent dosage level testing due to the required clinic visit and the test turnaround time and does not allow to monitor the adherence of patients. Consequently, ASM drug monitoring is highly critical to determine optimum levels and prevent incorrect dosages and side-effects thereof.
Avails Medical, Inc. technology disrupts the therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) market by using nanotechnology in combination with saliva, allowing for simple, in-home, non-invasive therapeutic drug monitoring. Physicians on the other hand can make changes to drug dosages remotely through a feedback system, thereby increasing patient adherence and ensuring correct dosages. By using saliva for detection of drug levels instead of blood or urine, users (patients) can simply spit on a medication-sensitive strip, place the strip into a reader (either a separate unit or one that plugs to a mobile device) and immediately get drug concentration levels. These data points are then transmitted to a server to store and analyze the information and share it with the physician or care provider.
$50,000 Judge’s Choice Award
Jon Davis obtained a BS in chemistry (with biochemistry focus) in 1993 from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas. In 1994, he joined Trinity Biotech and has been in technical management for the last 16+ years. For more than 10 years, he has been directly managing the technical aspects of HbA1c product line, the company’s clinical test for diabetes.
In February 2014, Jon’s youngest daughter Claire experienced a tonic-clonic seizure while getting ready for an early morning school activity. She was later diagnosed as having Junior Myocloic Epilepsy (JME). For her parents, the biggest concern soon became the morning routine. It was Jon and his wife’s experience that their daughter was most susceptible to myclonic seizures early in the morning, especially in the shower. Another concern was their teenager’s typical lack of sleep, which increased the likelihood of morning seizures. Finally, the added heat from the shower would create blood vessel dilations that would cause Claire to become dizzy.
These cumulative factors made daily showering a VERY tense experience. As caregivers, they were concerned about seizures, concussions, or possible drowning while showering. Yet their daughter still wanted bathing independence and freedom from caregiver intervention, like before her diagnosis. Jon & Teresa imagined a safety device that could ensure showering safety, but allowed their daughter to regain her independence. Thus, the Shower Power invention was born.
Shower Power, a bathing safety monitoring system
Shower Power is a device designed to give people living with epilepsy peace of mind by discretely monitoring their movements while in one of the most vulnerable and dangerous locations in the home – the shower.
The main concern is having a seizure and falling in the shower. An additional danger is blocking the drain and creating conditions conducive for drowning. While a typical drain guard (patent 6588029) could help by preventing the drain from becoming obstructed from the top, the drain could still back up potentially causing a drowning. Also, the person could suffer a concussion during a seizure and need medical attention. Shower Power gives the power of independence and safety to people living with seizures in the most basic of daily activities – showering.
As conceptually designed, Shower Power has the following key features:
- Easy to Use
- Non-invasive design - The body position sensor mounts on the shower wall with suction cups and can be further adjusted for multi-user height (typically set at one’s waist level).
- Simple controls - For non-monitoring use, a convenient bypass option is available. An event bypass button is available should the alarm accidentally trigger.
- Waterproof – Design of in-shower components is completely waterproof and battery powered.
- Proactive Monitoring:
- Proximity Sensor detects when typical upright body position is no longer maintained. This signals a seizure event and wireless communication to other devices is initiated.
- Shower Valve – When an event is triggered, the shower valve closes via wireless signal to prevent further water into the shower area. The risk of drowning has been virtually eliminated.
- Phone Dock - When an event is triggered, the Phone Dock unit is alerted via wireless signal. SMS text or other communication to pre-programmed recipient via smartphone or iPhoneTM is initiated.
- Proximity Alarm – When an event is triggered, the wall plug-in unit is alerted via wireless signal. The unit has an audio alert to warn others in the general proximity.
$75,000 Audience Award
Ahmed Helmy is associate professor of computer and information science and engineering at the University of Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and Master of Science in engineering math from Cairo University, Egypt. He also received a master’s degree in electrical engineering and doctorate degree in computer science from the University of Southern California. He was a key researcher in the Network Simulator NS-2 and Protocol-Independent Multicast (PIM) projects at USC/ISI from 1995 to 1999. He founded and directed the Wireless & Sensor Networks Labs at the university. In 2002, he received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his research on resource discovery and mobility modeling in large-scale wireless networks.
Amir Helmy is a student at the International Baccalaureate program at Eastside High School in Gainesville, Florida. He has developed several mobile apps, including Seizario and Heartera. For these apps, he received the Intel science-fair award in 2013 and 2014, the Grooveshark Jr. Hacker-of-the-Year award in 2013 and 2014, first place in school and regional science fairs in 2013 and 2014, and first place in computer science at the Florida state science fair in 2013. He was also a semi-finalist for the Broadcom Masters competition and the ACM MobiCom conference app competition in 2013. He led his robotics team to win the FLL (First Lego League) robotic competition design regional award in 2012.
Seizario App, a smartphone app that will alert loved ones when the owner of the phone is having a seizure
The goal of the Seizario app is to aid people living with epilepsy, their families and caregivers in managing their daily lives effectively, using smartphones. Seizario aims to offer two major features: 1) automatic detection of several emergency scenarios and 2) easy and immediate communication of critical information to family members and caregivers.
First, Seizario offers an accelerometerbased learning algorithm coupled with a finitestatemachine to automatically detect grand mal seizures and harmful falls. Warning and alert messages are triggered when potentially dangerous situations are detected. Second, immediate or timed emergency messages can be sent at will to preidentified family members or caregivers, with (instantaneous or longitudinal) activity, time and location information. Using Seizario regularly should reduce the effect of detected seizures by reducing the response delay due to timely alert notifications. It also provides a tool (bread crumbs) for frequent information notification to loved ones. In addition, it presents longterm detailed logs to caregivers and doctors for continuous behavioral analysis, for improved treatment and outcomes.
Nirav "Rav" Sheth joined MC10 in 2013 as the head of market development for the medical sector. He has built a cross-functional career path across a variety of industries with a consistent focus on commercializing ground-breaking medical technologies. Early on, he received an introduction to microelectronic packaging at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center. After four year stints at General Electric and McKinsey and Company, he made the transition into the medical device arena. Progressing through roles of increasing responsibility at multiple medical device companies, he has led teams in operations, regulatory compliance, and strategic and commercial marketing. He was responsible for driving the global launch of carotid stenting at Cordis Corporation and the formation of a new therapeutic endoscopy group at Olympus Corporation. Most recently, he led marketing for St. Jude Medical's Vascular and Structural Heart businesses in the Americas. He has a BS in metallurgical engineering from Columbia University, an MS in materials science from the University of Texas, and an MBA and master’s engineering management from Northwestern University.
MC10 “Biostamp,” a wireless sensing device worn on the body
MC10’s innovations in thin, conformal sensors (Biostamps) that measure muscle action potentials and motion activity offer a novel, patient-friendly solution for epilepsy monitoring and management. The goal for MC10’s sensors is to improve quality of life for people living with epilepsy and their families and improve patient-physician relationships in three main ways: 1) properly detecting and classifying seizures 2) tracking and communicating seizure characteristics, and 3) measuring response to therapy.
MC10’s Biostamp sensors would help people living with seizures and physicians manage epilepsy by tracking several important seizure signal parameters (e.g., time, frequency, duration of seizure, and duration between seizures), location of seizure/spasm (leg, arm, face, neck, fingers, etc.), strength/magnitude of seizure, and other abnormalities relative to the person’s baseline muscle activity (identifying trends and differences in motion and muscle activity over time). Insights and information on these variables would be readily accessible via smartphone-enabled clinical data collection, and cloud-enabled algorithms and analytics.
Because epilepsy is most commonly found in vulnerable populations (children and elderly persons), and people sometimes experience loss of consciousness during seizures, communication barriers in self-reporting constitute a serious challenge in care. By recording real-time, epilepsy-related health insights via wireless transmission of data, MC10 Biostamps would significantly reduce the burden and subjectivity of self-reporting epilepsy symptoms. Additionally, real-time notifications and alerts on symptoms could be sent to caregivers, doctors, and research facilities, decreasing asymmetric information and helping people living with seizures receive care faster.
Sandra L. Helmers, MD
Sandra L. Helmers MD, MPH is professor of neurology and pediatrics at Emory University. She also serves as attending neurologist at Grady Hospital and Egleston Children’s Hosptial. She is a Fellow of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society. She is a Diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with special qualification in Clinical Neurophysiology and the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology. She is a member of the National Epilepsy Foundation Professional Advisory Board, the Practice Management and Treatment Committees of the American Epilepsy Society, the Payment Policy Subcommittee and Medical Management and Technology Committee of the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Helmers received her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati, completed internship at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital/Columbia University, residency at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, and clinical neurophysiology fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University.
WebEase – Y, an online program to enhance youth epilepsy management behaviors
The purpose of this project is to develop WebEase-Y, an e-health self-management intervention for youth with epilepsy. To facilate the rapid development of WebEase-Y, we will adapt WebEase 2.0 (Web Epilepsy Awareness, Education and Support), an on-line, evidence-based intervention proven effective in adults with epilepsy.
We will leverage the existing structure and components of WebEase 2.0 (web-based and mobile application features) to meet the needs and interests of youth with epilepsy ages 12 to 17 and of their caregivers. We will develop new skill-building modules (i.e., therapy adherence and coping skills), add web-content relevant to pediatric epilepsy, and incentivize the continued use of WebEase-Y with an integrated rewards system that interfaces with gaming software.
The development of WebEase-Y will be guided by the following overarching goals: 1) to accurately assess epilepsy self-management needs of youth with epilepsy and their families; 2) to deliver tailored self-management information using a technology-medium preferred by youth; 3) to provide real-life skills for the self- and family-management of epilepsy (i.e. therapy adherence and coping skills); and 4) to promote transition from caregiver-initated to independent youth epilepsy management.
To that effect, we plan on testing the feasibility of using web-based technology to complete skill-building modules and of using a mobile app to monitor epilepsy-related information for youth with epilepsy and for their families.
Finallly, we will plan for increased availability and rapid dissemination of WebEase-Y to families through licensing with the Epilepsy Foundation. WebEase-Y has the potential to reach thousands of families across the US and to “meet” families where they are in the process of epilepsy management.
Since 1992, Michel Lundell has worked as a professional contractor for companies including Ericsson, Volvo and Hewlett-Packard providing software design, infrastructure architecture and security. In 2000, he got more involved with pharmaceutical companies and has designed and implemented clinical trial and electronic lab notebook systems.
In 2012, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. The side effects from the drug he was given pushed him to look for other alternatives. With support from his neurologist, he started the ketogenic diet in January 2014. To monitor the effect of his diet, he wanted a reusable and easy device. In August 2013, a device was invented which was easy to use and manage ketogenic-like diets. Ketonix® was invented, developed, designed and manufactured in Sweden by M Object Oriented Software Engineering AB. To help others on these diets, Michel is now 100% dedicated to developing the device further and making life easier for others.
Ketonix, a breath ketone analyzer for people on the ketogenic diet to control seizures
The ketogenic diet is known for its effect on controlling epilepsy seizures. Traditionally, urine sticks and blood tests have been used to measure ketone levels. Both of these methods are associated with cost per test. The Ketonix breath ketone analyzer indicates the ketone (acetone) concentration in the blood by analyzing the breath. It does not require any additional costs per test and can be used over and over again.
The device was first developed for my own personal use. It worked well and I got the idea to make a product of it to help others. It has now been sold to more than a hundred people throughout the world. It is easy to carry, easy to use, durable, reusable and cheap.
To take a measurement, the user connects it to a USB port, takes a normal breath and exhales all air possible into the mouthpiece. After about 10 seconds, the device shows the ketone level with a color led. Blue indicates none/very low level of ketones. Green indicates low level of ketones. Yellow indicates moderate level of ketones. Red indicates high level of ketones.
By having an instrument like this, it is very simple for a person on the ketogenic diet to know the current ketone level and make decisions about adjusting food choices and exercise regimen.