Written by Seamus Kelleher.
There is no routine brain injury. Within minutes of head trauma or stroke, a person’s brain becomes deprived of essential oxygen and nutrients needed to function, and lasting damage can occur. Early detection and treatment of traumatic head injuries and strokes is difficult, but it can prevent serious brain damage leading to lasting disability, or even death. Sense Diagnostics in Cincinnati, Ohio, has developed a simple, pain-free solution to quickly and accurately diagnose brain injuries and streamline essential treatment that could save lives.
“When you have severe head trauma or a stroke, you’re typically taken to the hospital where you’re given an MRI or CT scan in the ER or Intensive Care Unit,” said Dan Kincaid, CEO of Sense Diagnostics. “The medical team can’t keep giving you CT scans because they emit harmful amounts of radiation, so they instead perform clinical evaluations. That process involves waking you up every couple of hours so you can answer a series of questions. If you stop responding appropriately— another CT scan is ordered. As time passes, significant brain damage can occur. What we developed monitors early warning signs to skip a lot of that back-and-forth.”
Sense Diagnostics created a non-invasive monitor that emits very low-powered radio waves—just 1/500th the power of a cell phone—through the brain. The device’s array of antennas can detect bleeding in the brain based on varied radio frequencies (RF) and, using their software algorithm, determines where the problem is. This confirms the presence of a brain abnormality and gets patients to the CT scan or MRI sooner than a clinical exam would, saving precious time and potentially saving lives in the process.
“The technology was developed by four University of Cincinnati researchers and medical school faculty members. I served as a mentor initially but was honored when they asked me to come on as CEO,” said Kincaid. “It’s initially being designed for hospital use, but once we get FDA approval, we’ll shift our focus to a smaller, mobile version of the device that can be used in ambulances. This will further speed up the detection, and help first responders determine the best hospital for the patient and how to begin treatment.”
The medical device startup is a member of HCDC in Cincinnati, a southwest Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier, and one of Ohio’s largest and oldest incubator programs. The company developed its first prototype as a result of a $100,000 Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF) grant, which allowed them to contract an engineering firm to assist with the design. Sense Diagnostics also received crucial investments from two additional Ohio Third Frontier partners, the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center (GCIC) in Cleveland, and most recently secured a fundraising round led by Queen City Angels in Cincinnati.
The company is currently undergoing FDA studies to prove the safety of their technology. Once completed, they’ll move on to additional testing to prove the efficacy of the product. Kincaid says the team is shooting for full FDA approval by 2019. The innovative device has been in development for six years, and the team has had support all along the way.
“The story of Sense Diagnostics is the story of resources in Ohio to help entrepreneurs get their start. We’ve explored every opportunity we could along the way,” said Kincaid. “And beyond just the direct impact, I have no doubt the support validated us and helped open other doors, like support from the National Science Foundation. This has been a tremendous team effort and at no point have we felt we were going it alone. That’s Ohio’s commitment to entrepreneurs.”