Wearable Device That Detects and Prevents Unexpected Death in Epilepsy

The device will be able to identify deadly complications and notify the wearer immediately before placing them at risk.

The N1 device monitors for impending risk of sudden, unexpected death in epilepsy. (Image courtesy of Neurava.)

The N1 device monitors for impending risk of sudden, unexpected death in epilepsy. (Image courtesy of Neurava.)

Neurava, a U.S.-based startup launched by a pair of graduate students at Purdue University, has recently been developing an innovative non-invasive wearable device that will allow individuals that suffer from epilepsy to easily monitor their condition.

Dubbed the N1, the device is also capable of alerting individuals to the risk of sudden, unexpected death due to seizures. According to the developers, more than one-third of people in the United States who experience epilepsy are at risk for a deadly complication known as “sudden unexpected death in epilepsy” (SUDEP), which involves a non-traumatic and non-drowning death. Those who are most at risk of SUDEP commonly have refractory epilepsy, which means that medicines do not bring their seizures under control.

“We want to provide a simple device that is easy to use and can save lives,” shared Purdue Engineering Ph.D. student Vivek Ganesh, one of the co-founders of Neurava. “Our device monitors key biomarkers and then sends a wireless signal to a caregiver when it detects abnormalities typically linked to SUDEP.”

The Purdue University-affiliated startup has been working on the device since last year. The N1’s technology is built upon a key discovery made in the lab of Dr. Pedro Irazoqui, the founder of the Center for Implantable Devices at Purdue. According to the researchers, they were able to uncover a probable “mechanism of action” or biological signals that pinpoint specific SUDEP risks.

“The device monitors for biological dysfunctions that occur prior to a SUDEP event. There is typically a mixture of a few different events, so there is an identifiable pattern, and that’s what we look for,” says Ganesh. “Without getting too much into the details, we have a specific marker we’ve discovered through our research in the lab.”

90 percent of SUDEP cases occur in the evening. To accommodate this, the team at Neurava designed the device to be worn around the neck while sleeping. Besides detecting unusual activity, it also functions as a standard seizure monitor while also providing an additional layer of protection. In addition to alerting the wearer, the N1 also notifies the person’s caregiver. It offers various alert options including text, phone call, or haptics such as a vibration on a smart watch or other device. According to the developers, the N1 sends an alert a few minutes before the onset of the potential SUDEP event.

The N1 device is currently a diagnostic device; however, the team has already expressed plans to explore therapeutic applications.

“Not only are we going to be able to detect [SUDEP], but the device will also be able to—based on these alerts we’ve now identified—administer some sort of therapy. Either it is an implantable version or even potentially a wearable version,” shared Neurava co-founder Jay Shah.

The startup recently received over $650,000 in seed funding from Elevate Ventures alongside Purdue Foundry, First Leaf Capital, UCB Biopharma, iO Life Ventures, as well as other angel investors. The team is planning on using the funding to complete a final prototype and gather data through epilepsy monitoring studies.

Shah has also shared how the support from Purdue Foundry and the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization has allowed them to “take their ideas and turn them into life-saving technologies.” The goal is to eventually take the research out of the lab and place it in the hands of the people who need it.

Providing innovation and entrepreneurial support to engineering students enables these ideas to come to life. Similarly, this encourages students to develop their innovative abilities as they prepare to enter the field. As stated by EIT RawMaterials, an innovation community in the raw materials sector, innovation and entrepreneurship are the key drivers in today’s engineering world.

For more information, visit Neurava’s official website.