Epilepsy Organizations Award Grants for Novel Technologies to Improve Treatment, Monitoring and Detection of Epilepsy

Dec 03, 2010, 08:00 ET from Epilepsy Therapy Project

New Therapy Grants Program Announces Call for New Therapeutic and Medical Device Grant Applications for 2011 Spring Awards

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Epilepsy Therapy Project (ETP) and the Epilepsy Foundation (EF) today announced the latest grant recipients of their New Therapy Grants Program, a unique joint venture of two non-profit epilepsy organizations, to advance promising epilepsy research in clinical development.  The grant awards, totaling $400,000 in funding, will support the development of three new technologies:  SmartWatch, a monitoring and detection watch device; EpiLert, a seizure alert device; and Visualase, an MRI-guided laser system for minimally invasive surgery. The grant awards were announced by the Epilepsy Therapy Project and the Epilepsy Foundation during the American Epilepsy Society (AES) 64th Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX.  

The New Therapy Grants help advance promising, new treatments through critical early milestones to support further investment and development. Applications are evaluated by scientific and business advisory board members including experienced clinicians, scientists, investors and drug and device industry participants.  Awards are given based on the potential to provide substantial benefit in a timeframe relevant to those living with epilepsy today.

"Through this collaborative grant program, we have chosen to support three new device projects that are in relatively advanced development," said Warren Lammert, Chairman of the Epilepsy Therapy Project.  "Wearable seizure detection with wireless alerts could offer a window for intervention to prevent Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilespy (SUDEP) and bring increased peace of mind to people with epilepsy and caregivers.  Objective seizure detection may also facilitate improved management of existing medications and reduce the cost and time of clinical studies.  Laser induced thermal therapy is a proven technology developed to treat brain tumors and may represent an important advance in surgical treatment options for epilepsy.  We are pleased to provide critical support to these exciting new platforms."

"Epilepsy affects nearly three million people in the United States and 50 million people worldwide," said Joyce Bender, chair of the Epilepsy Foundation board of directors. "Even with current treatments, approximately one third of people with epilepsy live with uncontrolled seizures. These research grants will help further our mission to eliminate seizures and medication side-effects to improve the quality of life for people living with epilepsy."  

The Grant Recipients

SmartWatch for Seizure Detection (Smart Monitor Corporation, San Jose, CA)

  • New easy-to-use device for continuous monitoring and recording convulsive movements that also issues alerts to care-givers
  • 3D motion/accelerometer sensor detects fine and gross body movements

Chandan Gope, PhD, of Smart Monitor Corporation received a grant for continuing the development of the company's SmartWatch, a novel device that continuously monitors, detects, alerts upon and records rhythmic, repetitive convulsive movements of the limbs, caused by a generalized tonic-clonic or grand-mal seizure. A low cost, passive, non-invasive device, SmartWatch contains a motion sensor that detects fine and gross movements of the body part (arm, wrist or ankle) and is easy to use. A mathematical detection algorithm embedded in the Smart Watch analyzes the movements to determine if they are consistent with those caused by a seizure.  The product uses everyday devices such as mobile phones and pagers to issue timely alerts to caregivers upon the onset of seizures and is also a reliable tool to record seizure data.  The new grant will continue patient testing and commercialization for the SmartWatch.

EpiLert Seizure Alert Device (BioLert, Ltd., Even Yehuda, Israel)

  • A unique approach to the detection of epileptic seizures using mathematical algorithms to minimize false alerts
  • Provides both visual and audible alerts

Amos Shaham, BioLert Ltd., received a grant to refine algorithms for EpiLert, an epilepsy alert device based on limb movement, for which a robust seizure identification algorithm is an essential element. BioLert has developed and refined these algorithms from a database of seizure and non-seizure movements that were accumulated via unique hardware and software in a hospital setting. In this proposed project, the algorithm is to be embedded in the microprocessor that is incorporated in the EpiLert set. Grant funding will be applied to construct prototypes of the EpiLert which will include a sensor unit with a form factor similar to a wristwatch, and an alert unit the size of a cell-phone. These prototypes will be further evaluated in hospitalized patients to confirm optimum performance.

MR-Guided Laser Ablation of Epilepsy Foci (Visualase, Inc., Houston, TX)

  • Laser induced thermal therapy (LITT) precisely targets epileptogenic foci
  • Minimally invasive technique provides surgical alternative

Ashok Gowda, PhD, Visualase, Inc., received a grant to study the feasibility of MRI-guided laser ablation of epileptogenic seizure foci as a treatment for patients who are refractory to pharmacologic therapies. For many of these patients (who comprise approximately one third of all people with epilepsy), surgical resection offers a potentially curative therapy, yet few patients elect to undergo resection due to the invasive nature of the procedure and risk for morbidity. The hypothesis is that precise destruction of epileptogenic foci using a minimally invasive technique known as laser induced thermal therapy (LITT) would provide results approaching surgical resection in terms of seizure relief, and could be carried out with a far lower risk of surgical morbidity to the patient. The possibility of a minimally invasive ablation procedure would provide medically intractable patients with an alternative to more invasive surgical procedures while keeping open all possible therapy options in the future including subsequent ablation or surgical procedures if necessary.

"The New Therapy Grants Program is an engine to accelerate the development of the most promising new epilepsy therapies.  My hope is that we can mobilize increased support and expand this vital program so necessary to improving the lives of people living with epilepsy," said Orrin Devinsky, MD, ETP Co-Founder and Director, NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, New York University.  

Upcoming Grant Applicants:  Note Deadline for Letter of Intent is March 2, 2011

The New Therapy Grants Program is requesting proposals from scientific and clinical investigators pursuing innovative projects that demonstrate a clear path to commercialization. The program accepts the submission of proposals ranging from $50,000 to $500,000. The deadline to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) is March 2, 2011.   Applicants who have an accepted LOI have until April 13, 2011 to submit their full proposals.   To view additional requirements, please visit http://www.epilepsy.com/etp/support_translational.  

The New Therapy Grants Program is a unique partnership between two leading epilepsy non-profit organizations, the Epilepsy Therapy Project and the Epilepsy Foundation. The mission of the New Therapy Grants Program is to drive the development of new therapies for epilepsy, accelerating the advancement of research from the laboratory to the patient. Funding is provided for grants supporting the research and development of new therapies in both academic and commercial settings worldwide.

About Epilepsy

When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they have epilepsy, which affects nearly 3 million people in the United States and 50 million people worldwide. This year, another 200,000 people in our country will be diagnosed with epilepsy. To date, while there have been certain advances, there is no known cure and many people live with uncontrolled seizures daily.

About the Epilepsy Foundation

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with affiliated organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against epilepsy since 1968. The Foundation's goals are to ensure that people with seizures are able to participate in all life experiences; and to prevent, control and cure epilepsy through services, education, advocacy and research, so not another moment is lost to seizures. For additional information, please visit www.epilepsyfoundation.org.

About the Epilepsy Therapy Project

The Epilepsy Therapy Project is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate ideas into therapies for people living with epilepsy and seizures. Founded in 2002 by a group of parents, distinguished physicians, and researchers, the Epilepsy Therapy Project supports the commercialization of new therapies through direct grants and investments in promising academic and commercial projects. For more information about epilepsy, epilepsy treatment and the epilepsy pipeline, please visit our website, www.epilepsy.com or call 540.687.8077.  

SOURCE Epilepsy Therapy Project