School: Duke University, Fuqua School of Business
Team members: Heidi Koschwanez, Christina Li, Carolyn Nohejl, John Stroncek, Vivek Sasikumar
Concept: Cerene Biomedics is working to prevent seizures using a kind of high-tech brain freeze. The Cerene team, comprised of five Duke University graduate students, has developed a business-card-sized thermoelectric cooling device that can be implanted via craniotomy on the neocortical surface of an epileptic's brain. The cooling device would be automatically activated within milliseconds of seizure onset, essentially stopping the seizure before it started by slowing synaptic processes.
Cerene plans to sell the devices directly to hospitals, for around $20,000 each. While most of the 2.7 Americans living with epilepsy wouldn't be prime Cerene customers - the device would be appropriate only for the minority of patients who have a surface-level neocortical seizure focus and for whom medication does not suppress seizures - the Duke team believes that approximately 230,000 epileptic patients in the U.S. could benefit from their device.
Within that market, Cerene hopes for 2% patient adoption rate in the first year and a 20% market share by the fifth year. Getting there won't be easy, however. There are several testing, regulatory and licensing hurdles to overcome before the device can be commercialized - plus the challenge of recruiting patients willing to implant a device in their skull.
Four of Cerene's founders are pursuing doctoral or master's degrees in biomedical engineering at Duke, and the fifth founder is a medicinal chemist in his second year of Duke's MBA program.
Timeline: Cerene Biomedics is seeking seed funding from government programs, epilepsy foundation grants, and angel investors. With that funding it hopes to develop a prototype and conduct efficacy and safety studies over the two years. - Ben Frumin
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