Spanish company’s seizure brain monitor delivers early warning of attacks

By Chris Welsch

MJN Neuroserveis was born from the efforts of a father trying to make life easier for his daughter, who has a form of epilepsy that is resistant to drug treatment.

The father, David Blánquez, never knew when Marina’s seizures would happen until they started, sometimes in very dangerous situations.

An engineer by training, David set out to do something about it. The result of years of work by David and the rest of the MJN Neuroserveis team is a device that looks like a hearing aid. It is essentially an electroencephalogram, or EEG, constantly monitoring brain activity, and communicating with a person’s smartphone. Using a personalised algorithm developed by MJN Neuroserveis, the system delivers a warning of an imminent seizure at least one minute before it occurs, enabling the person to get to a safe position before it happens.

“The word epilepsy comes from the Greek for a surprise attack,” says Jordina Arcal, the company’s chief strategic officer. “With this device, we’re changing the meaning of the name of the disease because it’s not going to be a surprise anymore.”

Improving quality of life

The device has the potential to improve quality of life not only for those with epilepsy, but also for those who care for them. A “mirror app” will also deliver a warning to the patients’ caregivers or in the case of a child, parents, reducing the stress that is natural when you know someone you love could be in danger.

Because the device is constantly gathering information about brain activity, it will have the potential to aid in research on the disease, and in the treatment of individuals, which now often relies on a trial and error approach with medicines that can be taxing on the individual, Jordina says.

>@MJN Neuroserveis
David Blánquez created the seizure device to help his daughter, who has a form of epilepsy resistant to drug treatment. ©MJN Neuroserveis

In May, the device received the CE mark, an abbreviation that means European conformity for a product. The device will go on the market in June. The company also started the process of getting it approved for sale in the United States as well.

MJN Neuroserveis is a past finalist in the European Investment Bank Institute’s annual Social Innovation Tournament. The tournament supports entrepreneurs who are making an impact on social, ethical or environmental issues.

Adjusting to crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has caused some delays for the company, based in Girona, Spain.

 “Our clinical trials were stopped as hospitals were overwhelmed,” Jordina says, and the company’s efforts to secure funding to accelerate its growth were also delayed. But as things have started to return to normal, so have the clinical trials and other activities.

Among those activities is an exploration of the possibility that the device could be useful in the fight against COVID-19 and other health problems. “In the end it’s an EEG, and our algorithms could be useful,” Jordina says. “We’re asking how we can help in this crisis with the technology and the knowledge we have here.”