MIAMI — The Epilepsy Foundation awarded a total of $200,000 in grants to two finalists who competed in the 8th Annual Shark Tank Competition on May 24 held at the 2019 Antiepileptic Drug & Device (AEDD) Trials conference in Florida. Inspired by the television show "Shark Tank," the Epilepsy Foundation's annual competition invites entrepreneurs from around the world to pitch their products and compete with five other finalists for funding. The winners, selected by a panel of "sharks," will use the funding in the development and commercialization of a new product, technology, or therapeutic concept to benefit the epilepsy community.
"Given the enormous impact that seizures have on people living with epilepsy, there is an urgent need to develop more diagnostic tools and treatments to help the 65 million people worldwide living with epilepsy," said Jacqueline French, M.D., chief medical and innovation officer at the Epilepsy Foundation and professor of neurology at NYU Langone Health's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. "Our goal with this competition is to foster research and innovation so that we can continue to find solutions and improve the lives of people with epilepsy. We are excited to make strategic investments in novel concepts to bring therapies to market faster and in a timeframe that matters."
Winners of this year's Shark Tank competition include:
- Jody McNannay, parent of a daughter with epilepsy and co-founder of Curadite, received $50,000 from the judges. Curadite hopes to optimize its innovative medication management platform, which incorporates intelligent packaging, patient reminders and a clinician dashboard for the epilepsy community.
- Rachel Kuperman, M.D., chief executive officer of Eysz, Inc., received $75,000 from the judges and $75,000 from the audience. Her goal is to develop and deploy 100 eye-tracking wearables that will be used in a clinical study at UCSF on 300 patients to refine its patented seizure-detection algorithm.
The remaining finalists were:
- Hans Daneels, Ph.D., chief executive officer and co-founder; and Benjamin Vandendriessche, Ph.D., chief medical officer of ByteFlies
- Matthew Musser, chief executive officer and founder; and Areeba Turabi, chief technology officer of Seize the Wheel
- Sharon Chiang, M.D., Ph.D., neurology resident at University of California, San Francisco and creator of EpiSAT; and Robert Moss, co-founder of SeizureTracker.
The winning entries were selected through live voting by conference attendees and a panel of expert judges representing physicians and scientists, corporate executives, leading industry investors, people with epilepsy, and advocates. Among other things, criteria included the potential benefit and appeal to people with epilepsy and their families, and the likelihood of development of their product.
Since 2012, the Epilepsy Foundation has distributed $975,000 to 14 Shark Tank winners. Among those winners, nine have already made significant advances in the marketplace. In the last two years alone, four Shark Tank winners have made it to market, including UNEEG Medical (CE approved 2019), Embrace (FDA approved December 2018), Epidiolex® (FDA approved July 2018) and Zeto (FDA approved April 2018).
Also at the AEDD Trials conference, the Epilepsy Foundation awarded the Epilepsy Lifetime Accelerator Award to Professor Martin J. Brodie, M.D., president of the International Bureau for Epilepsy. Dr. Brodie has been involved in epilepsy drug development for more than 30 years and was principal investigator on numerous trials that brought new therapies to market. He was an innovator of novel trial designs and is arguably the most recognized speaker on new anti-epileptic drugs in the world.
For more information about the Shark Tank Competition or the Epilepsy Lifetime Accelerator Award, please visit: Epilepsy.com/Research.
According to the World Health Organization, epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide with no age, racial, social class, national or geographic boundaries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.4 million people in the United States are affected by epilepsy. It is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce seizures which are sudden abnormal bursts of electrical energy that disrupt brain functions.
About the Epilepsy Foundation
With a network of nearly 50 partners throughout the United States, the Foundation connects people to treatment, support and resources; leads advocacy efforts; funds innovative research and the training of specialists; and educates the public about epilepsy and seizure first aid. For more than five decades, the Epilepsy Foundation has shone a light on epilepsy to promote awareness and understanding, and to advocate for laws that matter to people with epilepsy, while also funding $65 million for epilepsy research and supporting 3,076 epilepsy investigators and specialists in their early careers. Over the past 17 years, in partnership with the CDC, the Epilepsy Foundation has helped to improve access to care for people with epilepsy, expanded its digital reach and online resources in homes across the country, and trained more than 500,000 school and community personnel in how to recognize seizures and administer Seizure First Aid. The Foundation has also assisted more than 108,000 people through its 24/7 Helpline in the past five years, and continues to focus on innovation, new therapies, community services, advocacy and education as key priorities. To learn more visit epilepsy.com or call 1.800.332.1000. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.