TORONTO – “There’s no magic pill that helps patients with concussion except physical activity,” Ashleigh Kennedy, CEO of Neurovine Inc. told BioWorld. But how does a patient in rehab know when to put on the brakes if they’re working too hard physically or mentally? The answer, Kennedy said, is an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven device currently in clinical trials that also provides doctors with treatment plans tailored to their patients’ specific needs.
“Physical and cognitive activity is really important for a patient, but if you overexert, it can actually set you back weeks in your recovery process. Our technology warns them when it starts seeing neuromarkers indicative of overexertion, warns them when they need to take a break.”
A surprising pivot
These days most concussion-related technologies are devoted to diagnosing, not treating, the condition, Kennedy explained. Leading the diagnostics pack are companies like Bethesda, Md.-based Brainscope Co. Inc. which she said “paved the way” using EEG technologies to diagnose military-related concussion.
Take a deeper peek at the brain, however, and you learn just how many parts of the brain can be impacted in different ways and require different methodologies for treating them. That ringing in the ears you’ve had for months after banging up against the outfield wall playing baseball benefits from innovative ear buds that impede the ringing, for example.
“The problem is a lot of what is available today masks symptoms,” said Kennedy, instead of addressing the core pathology underlying concussive symptoms. Increasingly, though, a gradual shift has occurred at physiotherapy clinics anxious “to get to the root of what’s really going on.”
Some of those clinics came in handy a year ago when the pandemic brought most sports activities to a grinding halt and along with it, Ottawa-based Neurovine’s plans to work with pro sports teams to test its treatment for concussion. What resulted, said Kennedy, was “an interesting pivot.”
“When sports went on hiatus we started working with physiotherapy and medical clinics which were to have been a second target market for us. That market was moved up because of COVID and since then has actually been a really great way to get patients using the technology.”
Neurovine’s platform consists of EEG technology embedded in a proprietary head band. Data generated as the patient rehabs is fed to the cloud where analytics are conducted. Patients who work too hard receive an alert via mobile app that they’re “entering a red zone and need to wrap up their activity,” said Kennedy.
It’s personalized technology, Kennedy added, using machine learning to advance the system’s understanding of the patient so that the patient can do more over time. From the same AI-driven analytics warning patients to ease up, physicians obtain valuable data via the Neurovine portal that helps them construct treatment plans, highlighting areas of weakness such as physical balance, for example.
Not just a Canadian thing
Forty-five clinics have signed onto virtual clinical trials at Ottawa’s Bruyère Research Institute since Neurovine’s shift in marketing strategy. Many of the 560 participants will have suffered work related concussion or falls, Kennedy noted, and are being joined this week by patients at two clinics in Denver.
Three study findings will be important, said Kennedy. “One is that we can actually see concussion recovery by 25%. Secondly, that the mental health of our patients is better because they’re engaged with the process; they can see whether they’re improving or not and know why,” said Kennedy. A third measure of success will be patient ability to stick with their prescribed exercises.
Neurovine benefited early on from C$250,000 (US$197,500) in federal research funding, capped off this month by nearly C$1 million (US$790,000) in investment funding led by Ottawa financier Kim Butler “who has a lot of experience and is just a whiz at raising capital.” said Kennedy.
Next for Kennedy and husband Mathew Kennedy, the company CMO, will be a C$10 million (US$7.9 million) series A raise. “That capital will allow us to establish a good relationship with a manufacturing partner and to scale production,” she said.