Medical tech startup EpiWatch recently completed a $415,000 raise to support a clinical study that, if successful, will show the FDA that the company’s software can track users’ epileptic seizures and coordinate lifesaving care.
The company’s so-called “prescription software,” which is actually an app that requires a doctor’s prescription to download, monitors wearers for seizures before alerting caregivers. It also tracks data after a seizure occurs, with the intention of creating an algorithm that can predict when an episode will occur.
The innovation here lies less in the monitoring technology and more in the platform: While the FDA has already cleared epilepsy-monitoring watches, like those made by Empatica, EpiWatch’s software allows this process to take place with an Apple Watch — or, theoretically, any smartwatch.
EpiWatch’s CEO Dean Papadopoulos told Technical.ly that the integration of a medical device with something as popular as an Apple Watch, instead of a separate device, helps normalize the condition. It can help someone with epilepsy avoid having to explain a medical device on their wrist.
The technology underscores the importance of caregivers being notified when a seizure takes place. Papadopoulos noted that some parents share a bed with their children from when they’re six years old, the time of their first seizure, until they go to college. Seizures can happen anywhere, from the shower to the bedroom, and have deadly consequences: Disney star Cameron Boyce died from a seizure in his sleep, while NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas passed after suffering a seizure in the shower.
“[Epileptic seizures] are a really serious problem,” said Papadopoulos, whose company spun out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine‘s Technology Innovation Center. “That’s our mission: We’re trying to protect these children and reduce the burden of anxiety on their parents.”
Papadopoulos expects the study to wrap by year’s end, and for the app to hit the market next year. If the FDA approves it, the app would only be available through Apple Watches. It remains to be seen how the FDA process will affect implementation with different kinds of smartwatches. Just as CoapTech needed another FDA process to test the pediatric version of its PUMA-G device, EpiWatch may need new trials for different watches.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.