St Vincent’s Head of Neurology Professor Mark Cook

The American Epilepsy Foundation invited entries that represent the most innovative new ideas in epilepsy treatment and care for its fourth annual Shark Tank Competition.

The winner(s) of the 2015 Shark Tank Competition will receive international recognition and compete for awards totaling $200,000 to support the development and commercialization of an important new product, technology or therapeutic concept to help people with epilepsy.

All finalists have been invited to present their product concepts or candidates at the 2015 Antiepileptic Drug and Device Trials XIII, scheduled from May 13-15, 2015, Turnberry Isle Resort, Aventura, Florida.

The winning entry (or entries) will be selected through live voting by conference attendees, and a panel of judges (Sharks) representing physicians and scientists, corporate executives, leading industry investors, people with epilepsy, and advocates.

The project(s) deemed to be the most innovative will be announced at the conference, and the winner(s) can receive as much as $200,000 to accelerate their idea towards improving the quality of life of people with epilepsy.

St Vincent’s Head of Neurology Professor Mark Cook is one of the six finalists.

For details visit the foundation’s website.

Here is an article about Professor Mark Cook’s world-first trial project seeking to help patients with epilepsy know in advance when they are likely to have a seizure. prediction technology.

Some years ago Professor Mark Cook started working with engineers in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (DEEE) and the Bionics Institute with a view to developing a tool to reliably predict when a seizure may occur.

GBlue_100717_D3_2222_Lge copy“At the time,” Professor Cook says, “we concluded that we didn’t have the technology that would work over a long enough time period.”

However, through various international meetings, he was approached by Seattle-based company NeuroVista in early 2010, who had heard of his work on prediction technology.

The company had been developing the NeuroVista Seizure Advisory System. NeuroVista were ready to partner with St Vincent’s in a world first human trial of their device following successful trials on dogs in the US.

In May 2010, St Vincent’s Neurosurgeon Michael Murphy implanted the first NeuroVista device into a patient. This involved an operation to attach a series of 16 electrodes on the brain connected via a wire to a handheld unit that sits under the collarbone in much the same way as a pacemaker.

The device collects data and transmits it to the handheld unit to advise patients when seizures are likely to strike. Since May 2010 an additional 14 patients in Melbourne have had NeuroVista implanted.

The handheld device stores information on the timing and nature of the seizure, and also starts recording audio to understand the effect of the seizure on the patient.

“It gives patients a warning of when a seizure is likely to strike, patients can also have certainty about when a seizure isn’t going to happen so that they can plan their day more effectively. It can also help patients administer short-term medications to alter the magnitude of the seizure.”

The data obtained from NeuroVista patients has led to new understandings about the nature of seizures. “For example, we often rely on patients to keep diaries of the number of seizures they are having.  We have always assumed there would be some under-reporting, however, we have found that in some patients they are having 100 or more seizures than they realise each day. In one case, a patient was having 250 a day, and only reported about 20,” Professor Cook says.

The data has implications for drug trials and gives neurologists insights around the electrical changes that precede or follow seizures.

The St Vincent’s Neurology team includes Lucas Litewka who manages the trial, Simon Vogrin, a neuroimaging research analyst, plus partners Professor Sam Berkovik at Austin Health and Professor Terry O’Brien at the University of Melbourne. The team works closely with NeuroVista and meets regularly to discuss the data coming out of the trial and how to progress the next phase of development.

The Neurosciences department is also working with DEEE, the Centre for Neural Engineering and the Bionics Institute on a data analysis project to prove some early theories on the timing of seizures.

Using the same technology as the highly successful cochlear hearing device, they are looking to develop minimally-invasive technology that can auto-detect a seizure and counter-stimulate to stop it.

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