EU support for low-cost medical equipment for epilepsy

DTU spinout BrainCapture receives DKK 40 million from EIC and private investors to get equipment for diagnostics on the market.

Now, there is reasonable hope that more epileptic patients in low- and middle-income countries in the future can be diagnosed and receive medication. The Danish company BrainCapture – a spinout of the research at DTU Compute – has received a commitment of just over DKK 40 million from the EU’s innovation fund EIC, European Innovation Council Accelerator.

The grant comes on top of support from private investors and is crucial to the company’s efforts and ambitions to enter the market with a cheap and mobile medical device that healthcare professionals without experience can use to examine patients.

“I haven’t stopped smiling since we were told in December. This is big. Instead of having to make it through on a minimal budget to get our equipment to market, we now have the muscles to create a better solution that we can roll out quickly, “says CEO of BrainCapture, Tue Lehn-Schiøler, who trained as an engineer from DTU.

Quality control must ensure better diagnostics

“Through new projects and discoveries, researchers can further develop and test ideas that may not be right now, but in 2, 5 or 10 years. Perhaps, we take those ideas at a later stage and incorporate them somehow.”

CEO of BrainCapture Tue Lehn-Schiøler

The neurological disease epilepsy causes seizures, which can be seen in the electrical activity of the brain and can lead to premature death. The disease can be treated with cheap medicine, but patients in low- and middle-income countries are rarely diagnosed because there is a lack of diagnostic equipment and neurologists.

For a number of years, researchers in the Section of Cognitive Systems at DTU Compute have worked with analysis of measurements of brain activity. In 2011, they got the idea to develop cheap and mobile EEG equipment to measure parts of brain activity. In 2019, the technology behind the idea matured to the point that it could be spun off into the company BrainCapture.

The EEG device consists of a cap with electrodes, which is placed on the patient’s head and measured the voltage differences between the electrodes. Data is sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone that forwards it to a cloud, which a neurologist, who can easily sit on the other side of the world, can access to make the diagnosis.

Right now, DTU Compute and BrainCapture are collaborating in the research project eGAP, where Associate Professor Tobias Andersen and his team are developing a quality control algorithm. The challenge with the scans is that e.g. eye movements, blinking and face muscle contractions also give signals, causing interference with the neural signals that are intended to show whether a patient is ill.

The quality control algorithm will be implemented in the system to allow an untrained operator in a local health center in a low- or middle-income country to be notified in real-time of noise in the signals. Unlike other similar control methods, the DTU model will be able to extract signals and map exactly which movements cause the signals. In this way, the operator will be able to help the patient not to move in a way that causes interference, so it will be easier to make an accurate diagnosis.

“We are close to completing the prototype of the quality control algorithm. Next, we would like to test it while running live on BrainCapture’s device. Then, it will probably need to be adjusted and refined a bit. Finally, we would like to test it for its real purpose, which is to help inexperienced operators in EEG to record better quality data than they would normally be able to,” says Tobias Andersen.

Collaboration keeps innovation alive

The people at BrainCapture are busy getting the equipment refined before it has to be CE-approved for medical use in Europe, then approved in Africa, and then on the market, initially in Kenya where collaboration with local doctors has been established.

Although the world looks very different in a company than at a university, the collaboration with DTU, according to Tue Lehn-Schiøler, helps BrainCapture stay on the innovation track:

“We have many thoughts about the future. Right now, we are busy getting the device on the market, which involved a lot of practical work. But the technology could also be used for other neurological diseases, e.g. Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. So, while we are concentrating on the business, the researchers are thinking ahead.”

“Through new projects and discoveries, researchers can further develop and test ideas that may not be right now, but in 2, 5 or 10 years. Perhaps, we take those ideas at a later stage and incorporate them somehow. That was the idea when we set up the company. It remains to be seen if it will actually work, but now we at least have the opportunity to build a platform so we can do it,” says Tue Lehn-Schiøler.

BrainCapture expects to be on the market in early 2023.

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