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A PhD student from Aarhus University has developed a respiratory mask which may change the treatment of epileptic seizures. And its huge potential has recently won the invention the entrepreneurship competition ‘Venture Cup Start-up Competition’.
The mask has potential to prevent and stop epileptic seizures merely by regulating respiration. The invention holds such promising potential that it won the ‘Life Science and Medtech’ category in this year's Venture Cup Start-up Competition, a competition for university students and researchers. The respiratory mask will now be tested on a number of epileptic patients. It has been developed by Troels Johansen, who is a PhD student at Aarhus University. The award is accompanied by a DKK 50,000 cash prize and a so-called Booster Pack with services worth DKK 400,000 to help realise the business idea.
The respiratory mask has potential to stop an epileptic seizure within 20 seconds, where other drugs take up to 5-10 minutes before they work. By means of a re-inhalation bag and a special membrane, the mask increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the inhaled air, without the patient running out of oxygen. This has an immediate effect on the nervous system and stops the epileptic seizure for the benefit of the epileptic. Because the longer a seizure, the greater the risk of damage.
Huge market potential
The respiratory mask – called BalancAir – was awarded the prize because of its great potential.
“The jury stressed that it is an innovative product, which is unique in the treatment of this disease and therefore has a huge market potential. It is, of course, nice to be given a pat on the shoulder like this,” says Troels Johansen.
He developed the respiratory mask during his engineering studies after having himself suffered from breathing difficulties and chest pains. A breathing technique had proved helpful, but the method was exhausting. He therefore started developing a device that could create the same positive effect more easily. He filed for a patent for the mask in 2009 and today runs the company with his brother, a student at the Technical University of Denmark, DTU.
More clinical studies
The mask is about to be tested clinically in collaboration with Aarhus University Hospital on a group of patients with different types of epilepsy.
“We are very excited about the outcome. A number of international medical companies have previously shown great interest in the mask, and the ability to document the effect is important for being able to market the product. We hope that we, in the long term, can enter into a licence agreement with a business partner that can leverage its commercial experience to get the mask out to the patients,” says Troels Johansen.
- The BalancAir respiratory mask increases the level of carbon dioxide in the inhaled air, thus causing the pH value of the blood to drop. This makes the nervous system less sensitive. Tests with increased levels of carbon dioxide have proved to be able to stop seizures within 20 seconds.
- 35,000-55,000 Danes suffer from epilepsy.
- In the USA, epileptic seizures cause approx. 50,000 deaths a year.
- The Danish Epilepsy Association, among others, has provided funding for the clinical testing.