Medical technology start-up Neuralert has been on the fast track since its inception in 2019. Co-founded by neurologist Steven Messé, MD at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Dr. James Weimer, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics, the Neuralert device is a lightweight, non-invasive wristband that can detect and alert medical staff in about 15 minutes of the onset of a stroke.
Neuralert CEO Eric Corkhill is no stranger to the medtech field. Corkhill joined Neuralert in 2020, bringing over 40 years of experience in healthcare tech sales and leadership. CTO Det Ansinn, a seasoned developer of FDA approved wearable and mobile devices, completes the company’s team. In 2022, Neuralert was a RealLIST Startups runner-up winner.
“Although this is my seventh startup,” Corkhill told Technical.ly, enumerating his leadership experience at companies such as Sentillion and Cerner. “I have never been as committed or passionate about any product as I am about Neuralert.”
The Neuralert wristband looks very much like a smartwatch and uses similar technology to track the wearer’s health stats. But what makes Neuralert so successful at quickly assessing stroke warning signs is its patented, state-of-the-art algorithm developed by Weimer at the University of Pennsylvania. This algorithm is the first of its kind because it is able to mathematically model out asymmetrical patterns that are not associated with a stroke, thus virtually eliminating false positives.
Asymmetric arm movement or weakness is one of the most common signs of stroke, Corkhill said. There are also visual signs of stroke, like a drooping face, but unless someone’s being constantly monitored, it won’t be caught quickly. As Corkhill points out, “If patients are lying in a hospital bed, or they’re sedated, the visual indicators we’ve traditionally relied on aren’t so easily ID’d.”
Recent studies have shown that up to 17% of all strokes in the United States occur in patients who are hospitalized for other reasons, and that half of all in-hospital strokes are not identified for more than 4 hours since the last known normal indication. Right now, the company is targeting hospitals who perform 1.7 million high risk of stroke cardiovascular procedures each year, said Corkhill. Once we demonstrate success there, we will expand into non-acute care facilities like nursing homes as well as into consumer health to protect the tens of millions of people at risk of a stroke.
The company aims to dramatically reduce stroke detection time in hospitals from hours to as little as 15 minutes. This enables the hospital to use proven stroke treatments ensuring better outcomes. When stroke-based asymmetry is detected, a secure, text-based alert is sent to attending staff if the patient is in a medical facility. IN the home, the system alerts the wearer who can disable the alarm if assistance is not needed. If not disabled in time, the system automatically notifies medically trained, on-call services agents or the designated “In Case of Emergency” contact through a mobile app.
The Neuralert stroke detection device received breakthrough technology designation with the FDA in August 2021, allowing for speedier development and review by the agency. Corkhill’s recent participation in the University City Science Center’s Launch Lane accelerator at the end of 2021 has been helpful in his fundraising efforts for a $1.5 million seed round.
The seed money will fund several 2022 goals, which include getting purpose-built prototype devices delivered in March and an FDA clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. After the FDA process, the team will raise a Series A round to start commercialization by manufacturing devices at scale and hiring staff to bring Neuralert to the market.
Corkhill remains excited about the potential impact Neuralert could make. “There are more than 1.2 billion people living today who are going to have a stroke,” he said. “Detecting that stroke faster so help can be delivered sooner means millions will continue to live full, rich lives and not suffer from death or long term disability. That is a great mission to strive for.”