Incubated at the University of Waterloo, Novela Neuro has evolved from its original goal of developing a brain implant to record neural activity specifically related to epilepsy, to a wearable non-invasive way of monitoring biomarkers. Co-founder Parisa Sabetian said, “Around 2019 we changed to wearables with Neureka as our studies and market research revealed we could fill a needed gap this way.”
Neureka is an epilepsy care platform with an app and wearables that enables self-reporting of seizures, medication tracking, sleep monitoring, and side-effects reporting. The wearable device records activity, especially during sleep, for prevention and detection of potentially dangerous sleep events. One benefit is detecting suspicious activity through biomarkers to prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). The system sends alerts so interventions can take place. “The information gathered is easily shared with caregivers and medical staff in a report so epilepsy can be better managed,” said Lara Kidd, communication strategist.
Through market research and in working with Sick Kids and Toronto Western hospital, Sabetian said they realized the path ahead should focus on wearables rather than invasive implants. They had a market-ready product within nine months and are continuously improving while gathering patient, caregiver and medical feedback.
Help from Innovation Guelph
The company worked with Innovation Guelph’s former Fuel Injection program and attended a pitch competition. The funding helped them start their pre-clinical study with the Krembil Institute and Toronto Western Hospital during which they finalized the product. They also made some significant connections including to SR&ED and also other companies in their field that continue to benefit their growth.
Neureka Trial Underway
An exciting update, Novela Neuro pitched their idea of wearables to the Brain Institute in June 2020 and were selected for a study that examines:
- The usability & tolerability of the product
- Whether participants will show self-reported improvements in their quality of life, medication adherence, and seizure tracking
- Whether care partners of individuals with epilepsy have a reduced care burden, and reduced anxiety
The team aims to recruit 50 patients and they are almost at their goal! If you know someone over the age of 18 who suffers from a minimum of four seizures per month, is on medication for epilepsy, and is English speaking, they may qualify.
Interested patients can contact Novela via their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be referred to the study partner Epilepsy Ottawa. Participants commit to a 90-day trial with a survey every 30 days. They may also qualify to keep the equipment and services free for one year after the trial ends.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
“Knowing your target market very well, understanding your customer to bring something that helps them is important for entrepreneurs to keep in mind,” said Sabetian. “We launched early so we can learn from our users or customers to mature our product to their needs.”
“Listening to feedback is important for the development cycle,” said Kidd. “The product needs to be user-friendly to be impactful.”
Novela – A Global Team
One of the unique features of the company is that, even before COVID-19, the employees work from home, around the world, blending cultures and insights. “We are a team with a friendly culture operating in four time zones,” said Sabetian. “Our employees are working by their hearts; our employees care about our vision and improving human life. We’re growing and becoming one family unified under our focused vision.”