This Cincinnati Startup is Creating a Non-Invasive Way to Diagnose and Monitor Stroke and Brain Injury

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Sense Neuro Diagnostics is giving doctors and surgeons a powerful new tool

Despite major advances in medicine, brain injuries are still one of the most difficult things to treat. They can be hard to identify, require specialized hospitals and cause devastating effects on patients. Until now, there hasn’t been a great way to identify and monitor such injuries. But Cincinnati startup Sense Neuro Diagnostics is working to change that. They’ve created a non-invasive way to monitor for brain-bleeding injuries that could make a major impact.

“You can only determine and quantify bleeding in the brain with a CT scan or MRI, so the only way we have to determine whether patients are getting worse is a clinical neurological exam,” said CTO and co-founder George Shaw, who is also a physician. “For bleeding in the brain, clinical symptoms lag depending on the severity of the injury. I find out about this in the emergency department because a nurse tells me someone is getting sleepier, which is always bad. Then you do a CT scan and things have gotten much worse. So there’s a need to continuously monitor the brain function of patients.”

Rather than requiring a major scan in a specialized location, Sense’s device uses radio waves that can identify a variety of problems or potential problems based on their electrical properties. The device is mobile and quick to scan, meaning healthcare professionals can get answers they need much more quickly, which can save lives.

“We didn’t have any way of treating strokes 30 years ago,” said Shaw. “Now we do, but they’re very time-dependent therapies and not all hospitals are comprehensive stroke centers where they have the techniques to treat different types of strokes. You might be taken to the wrong hospital if EMS can’t determine what kind of stroke it is. If you need to be transferred from one hospital to the other, it can take hours while you’re losing about 2 million brain cells a minute. The chance of losing long-term function or even dying goes up very quickly with time. Time equals brain cells, and you don’t want any detours on the way. Our device can help EMS determine which hospital they need to go to, and that can save hours or millions of neurons.”

The device can be used for different versions of brain-bleed injuries as well as determining stroke types. The potential benefits of the device are impactful enough that interest is coming from across the world. In January, Sense started a trial that will span the United States, Canada and India, which is among the world’s most needy for a device like what Sense is creating. They’re also in the midst of two human trials for the device and are wrapping up another in November that proves it can distinguish between brain bleeds and different types of stroke.

“Stroke is the second leading cause of death in India; 500,000 people die every year there of traumatic brain injury,” said CEO Geoff Klass. “So the government there is making a huge investment to work on those numbers. It’s the right place to make a big impact. We are pushing as hard as we can to complete the trial by the end of the year and then submit to the FDA and Indian regulatory authorities at the same time for approval in those countries. With a bit of luck, we’ll be launching in the US and India by 2022.”

The Sense Neuro project and team is deeply rooted in Ohio and Cincinnati, where Shaw is a staff physician at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The startup is part of the Hamilton County Development Center and has drawn investment from Queen City Angels. They’re also the first non-cardio device to earn investment from the Cleveland Clinic’s Global Cardiovascular Innovation Fund and received additional support from a private group of Cincinnati neurosurgeons who see the value in the project. With so much support, it’s no surprise that they’re enthusiastic about Cincinnati and Ohio as the home of their own innovation.

“Ohio has world-class healthcare organizations, and UC medical school and their research departments have allowed for collaboration with Dr. Shaw and other researchers who have defined the medical need,” Klass said. “We’ve been able to use licenses from UC to develop the product, and it’s been a great market to be able to work that type of effort. It’s not as easy to do that in other areas of the country. And Cincinnati as a community is making a concerted effort to up their game when it comes to innovation. For us, the Cincinnati community has been a great partner.”

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