Novela Neurotechnologies: Ushering in the Next-Generation of Personalized Neurological Care
Salam Gabran, Director of Engineering
“Deliver innovative products that impact neurological care, enhance patient’s quality of life, and advance neuroscientific research,” is the vision that drives Novela Neurotechnologies in its quest to deliver personalized care to patients who have epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other neurological disorders. Incorporated in 2013, the company was a spin-off from basic research performed in collaboration between Canadian universities and the Hospital for Sick Children and started its R&D in 2007. “With years of research experience and deep roots in the academic world, Novela is coming up with products to transform neurological healthcare,” says Ray Iskander, CEO at Novela. The company develops biocompatible neural implants that monitor, recognize, and intervene in neurological disorders through personalized treatment protocols. The company’s approach leverages the importance of measuring brain dynamics and the pathology in question to devise therapies that ameliorate the pathology in a well-controlled manner. “Our neurological implant platform bears resemblance to a heart pacemaker,” remarks Salam Gabran, Director of Engineering at Novela. The flexible and minimally invasive device that is programmable through software can be implanted in the patient’s brain. This programmability helps in providing personalized care to the patients. Since the electrophysiological signals vary from person to person, the programmability of the device ensures greater efficiency in neurological care. Once implanted, the device records and monitors brain activity and the software instructs it to deliver electric pulses to the brain based on the disorder that it monitors. For instance, in epilepsy when seizure symptoms are detected, the device sends electric stimuli to inhibit seizure generation.
The device’s capability to detect extremely low amplitude signals coupled with its high signal-to-noise ratio ensures that it can extract hidden brain data patterns, allowing better understanding of neurological disorders, developing new treatments, and personalizing those treatments.
Unlike their competitors who deliver continuous intermittent stimulation protocols for brain or neurological care, Novela’s devices deliver “neurostimulation on-demand.” This helps to remarkably extend the battery lifetime from the current industry standards while also ensuring fewer side effects. It also reduces the number of surgeries for a patient during his lifetime. The other features of the product include wireless power transfer and secure data transfer.
Gabran denotes an instance where the company was able to help researchers in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in their research program for epilepsy that had been running for more than 15 years. The researchers were trying to create an algorithm that would detect the onset of an epileptic seizure and then send electric pulses to inhibit its development. The algorithm was a breakthrough success because Novela’s brain implant device was able to accurately measure brain signals required for efficient seizure detection. By leveraging Novela’s technology, the researchers were able to develop the algorithm and make it functional in experiments using a rodent model of seizures; their closed-loop intracerebral stimulation protocol was efficient in the animal testing. Through the device, they were able to inhibit 90 percent of epileptic seizures which was a notable improvement when compared to the common open-loop deep brain stimulation paradigm that could only inhibit 50 percent of seizures.
“We are planning to repeat the success story we have had with epilepsy with other groups as well,” adds Iskander. For this, they have expanded their collaboration network with other research partners for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and motor disorders as well as psychiatric disorders. They envision expanding their research network in Canada, US and Europe.
Among the technological innovations that Novela is working on are new manufacturing methods and novel organic electronics that can almost “fuse” with cell membranes. They also have a roadmap with several products that they expect to come up in the coming five years starting with their first product launch mid 2019. “The advancements Novela is bringing in the fields of neurosensing and neurostimulation can make what looks like fiction today become a reality soon,” concludes Iskander.
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