An Ottawa health-tech startup that uses artificial intelligence to help track the recovery and progress of concussion patients has begun virtual trials of its wearable technology after landing hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding.
Launched by husband-and-wife couple Ashleigh and Matthew Kennedy, Neurovine plans to build a personalized solution that can tell concussion patients when they’re pushing their physical or mental exertion too far and offer a tailored recovery road map that will help doctors prescribe better treatments.
The 12-person company launched clinical trials of the technology last year at the Bruyère Research Institute, but when the COVID-19 lockdown put a stop to all in-person sessions earlier this year, Neurovine’s team requested permission to host the trials remotely.
Ethics boards from both Bruyère and Carleton University – where Neurovine is working with athletes – both signed off on the unusual approach, “which is unheard of, really,” says Ashleigh Kennedy, whose father played on the Ottawa Rough Riders’ practice squad in the 1960s and had many friends who suffered debilitating long-term effects from concussions.
Kennedy says the company is currently using the wearable tech to monitor 10 individuals, but wants to find up to 150 patients – a task that should be easier now that Neurovoine can cast its net across Canada via the online approach. It’s hoping to see preliminary results by September and finish the first cohort of trials before the end of the year.
She adds the firm’s long-term plan was to develop a system that would allow doctors to connect with patients via an online portal, a process the virtual trials will help accelerate.
“Basically, anywhere we can ship a headset now, they can be involved in the trial,” she says. “It’s pushing us to develop faster and focus more on getting everything launched virtually.”
The fledgling firm is also gaining traction with investors who are looking at the company in a new light since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, Kennedy adds.
So far, Neurovine has raised $750,000 in pre-seed funding from a group of contributors that includes the Capital Angel Network, LaunchHub, York Angels, Maple Leaf Angels and Georgian Angel Network. Kennedy is now talking to other potential angels – including a network of Canadian doctors called HaloHealth – with the goal of raising another $100,000 before pursuing a series-A round later this year to fund more trials.
She says the pandemic has proven the value of technologies that allow health-care providers to deliver care to patients remotely.
“Telehealth is mainstream right now,” says Kennedy, who holds PhDs in neuroscience and exercise physiology.
“Patients are comfortable connecting with their doctors online and vice versa. Some of those barriers that would have taken five, 10 years to break down, people have responded in a matter of four months. Investors see that.”
The company has also boosted its executive team’s bench strength with the addition of names such as Christopher Mulvanny, a California-based health-tech finance veteran who will serve as Neurovine’s virtual CFO.
Kennedy says the former football player at the University of Oregon brings a valuable skillset to the startup, which hopes its technology will soon be used to help athletes of all levels, from young amateurs to top-flight pros, recover from brain injuries.
“He understands how professional sports works,” says Kennedy, who first connected with Mulvanny after he saw her speak during TEDxKanata in March. “But I think even more importantly … he’s got a real window into how youth sports are run and how we can get involved in (youth) leagues.”
The company – which was part of Kanata-based accelerator L-Spark’s cohort last fall – was also recently accepted into Invest Ottawa’s accelerator program, where it will work closely with seasoned mentors such as health sciences veteran Dane Bedward.
“The resources there are awesome,” says Kennedy. “I think it could be really helpful as we ramp up our approach to the market.”