[Tech50] How this startup aims to use brain tech to solve epilepsy misdiagnosis

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Neurostellar is a Chennai-based YourStory Tech50 2021 startup that offers medical-grade 3D printed EEG electrodes and headsets. The smart wearable EEG is aimed at the detection, diagnosis and classification of epileptic seizures.
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Karthik Raghavendran had completed his internship in Japan at the National Institute of Material Sciences. However, he had always wanted to do something in the area of sensors from his school days. 

“When I was in class 9, I worked in university, working on bio-sensory research until my college days,” says Karthik. When he came back to India, Karthik felt that there was a strong potential for neurotech in India, but he realised there were hardly any companies in India in the space. 

Karthik ended up joining a neurologist - Dr AV Srinivasan from the Indian Academy of Neurology. “I had the opportunity to hang out with various doctors and neurologists. And that is when we found a problem in the diagnosis of epilepsy. And there were several problems,” says Karthik. 

According to him, they wanted to build a wearable that didn’t need a skilled technician and could localise epileptic abnormalities from the brain data to assist the doctors. It led to the birth of Chennai-based Neurostellar, which addressed problems related to misdiagnosis of epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterised by recurrent seizures. Neurostellar is one among YourStory's Tech50 2021 startups.

It aims to solve this by linking brains and machines, and its smart medical-grade wearable EEG is equipped to monitor a patient’s brain, detect and classify epileptic seizures.

Team and product 

Once the idea was in place, Karthik roped in Dhanushya Sree as co-founder at Neurostellar. She comes with two years of experience as a marketing and product specialist. 

After completing her undergraduate degree in biotechnology in 2019, she worked at ByteAlly Software Solutions and Zenbridge as a Product Marketer.

“The startup addresses the problem of shortage of neurologists and technicians in the country, and lack of better quality diagnostic tools,” says Karthik. 

IIT-Madras incubated Neurostellar offers medical-grade 3D printed EEG electrodes and headsets. The smart wearable EEG is aimed at the detection, diagnosis and classification of epileptic seizures. According to the startup, the device can be used for both routine and ambulatory recording. 

While monitoring a patient’s brain activity, the EEG can also transfer the acquired data using WiFi and Bluetooth. The device has been designed to reduce physiological and electrical artefacts in EEG signals. It can also cancel electrical interferences and other noises from the signals.

It also offers a desktop/mobile interface for remote access of real-time EEG reports from anywhere in the globe. 

The Neurostellar team

The workings 

Neurostellar uses 3D printing technology for device manufacturing and electrode fabrication. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology for data transfer from hardware. 

It detects and classifies the signals using signal processing and deep learning technologies. It stores the EEG data using Cloud and DBMS (database management system). 

However, as a deep tech startup, there are several tech and funding challenges they had to overcome. “What we are building is a unique problem that can serve doctors and patients globally,” adds Karthik

The startup's device has a competitive advantage over existing devices in terms of affordability. According to them, it also has better signal quality and reduced technician-prone errors, besides reducing the probability of misinterpretation. 

Neurostellar’s fundamental aim is to link the human brain and machines in order to improve human well-being. Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are already considered an important technology that can treat patients with brain disorders. It can play a huge role in the healthtech segment in the coming years.

Market and future 

According to an Allied Markets Report, the brain computer interface market was valued at $1.48 billion, and is projected to touch $5.43 billion by 2030. The Indian wearable devices market touched an all-time high shipment of three million units in the April-June 2019 quarter, cementing the country's position as the third-largest wearables market globally after China and the US, according to research firm IDC.

Post COVID-19, the brain computer interface market size was valued at $1,488.00 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $5,463.00 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 13.9 percent from 2020 to 2030.

The startup had raised a total funding of $68,000 from the BIRAC Grant.

“We wanted to create products for neurology and mental health. The idea is to transform the way people look at mental health and solve for the toughest of mental health disorders,” says Karthik. 

He adds that with Neurostellar, they want to build the next level and generation of interfaces. “After computers, and voice-based interfaces, there will be a need for interfaces that reduce time and capabilities for an individual,” adds Karthik. 

The startup charges a one time cost of Rs 5,00,000 for the EEG hardware, with additional costs for electrode replacements. It also charges a subscription for its software analysis platform.

By the end of 2022, Neurostellar wants to launch its AI-enabled reading software, and reach 500 customers for the telemetry platform. In the long term, it also wants to reach the beta testing stage for its hardware. 

The startup aims to sell 1,000 units of its hardware and have over 2,000 subscriptions of its software by 2024. 

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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