Two Johns Hopkins research teams have received technology development grants totaling more than $150,000 through the Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research.
A total of 28 researchers applied for the last round of funding. Finalists pitched their proposals virtually in June to an outside panel of independent researchers and investors, innovation managers and venture capitalists.
Created with a generous $5.4 million gift from businessman and philanthropist Louis B. Thalheimer, the fund provides seed funding for essential proof-of-concept and validation studies of valuable Johns Hopkins technologies. .
Since 2016, the Thalheimer Fund has awarded more than $1.5 million to 18 projects at Johns Hopkins. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000, and all recipients have officially reported their inventions to JHTV.
The projects benefiting from the grants are:
A new tool for diagnosing epilepsy from scalp EEG
Principal Investigators: Sridevi V. Sarma, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, and Khalil Husari, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The pitch: A faster, more accurate way to diagnose epilepsy
More than 3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by unpredictable seizures. For nearly 100 years, a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made by a physician manually reading the results of a cranial electroencephalography (EEG) scan of the scalp. Clinicians examine EEGs to detect abnormalities in digitized brain waves between seizures, when the brain is considered at rest. These abnormalities are indicators of epilepsy.
However, abnormalities do not always show up, leaving EEGs unusable. The result is an epilepsy rate of almost 30%. Untreated patients are at increased risk of recurrence of seizures, and poorly treated patients face all the handicaps of a diagnosis, including lifestyle limitations and job and conduct restrictions, as well as potentially unnecessary and expensive medical procedures and medications.
Sarma and Husari have developed an EEG analysis algorithm that uses data at rest to build a “heat map” of a patient’s brain activity that a doctor can then quickly and definitively interpret. They plan to use Thalheimer funding to perform a study on 200 patients to validate the accuracy of the algorithm, as well as to customize another algorithm that removes excessive brain activity from the heat map.
JHTV seeks patent protection for the technology.
Continuous monitoring of the vulnerable fetal brain using an ultra-compact endovaginal ultrasound/photoacoustic sensor
Principal Investigators: Jeeun Kang, Ph.D., researcher in the Computational Sensing and Robotics Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, and Emad M. Boctor, Ph.D., associate research professor in the Department of Electricity and Computer Science from the Whiting School of Engineering Engineering
The pitch: A more precise and continuous fetal monitoring device
Fetal brain damage such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – a lack of blood or oxygen to the brain – can lead to lifelong disabilities, including cerebral palsy. Of the 4 million annual births in the United States, the incidence of poor respiratory circulation and low muscle tone (signs of HIE) is 4.2% for full-term babies and 30% for premature babies. Electronic fetal heart monitoring has been the standard method of care for 50 years and is used in 85% of all deliveries, but it fails to manage every potential problem – it does not identify a cause of HIE or predict a possible neurological injury.
Kang and Boctor, along with colleagues in maternal-fetal medicine and neurophysiology, have developed a device that uses photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging to continuously monitor both fetal brain and labor progress from inside the vagina. , allowing pediatricians and obstetricians to quickly detect and treat HIE and other potential complications while eliminating the need for multiple, invasive cervical dilation checks.
The researchers plan to use the Thalheimer funding to build a prototype for clinical use. JHTV is seeking patent protection for the technology, and the team is considering creating a startup for the technology or licensing the work to an existing company.