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UCC spins out new medtech start-up

8 Jan 2024
UCC spin-out NeuroBell co-founders Dr Mark O’Sullivan, Colm Murphy and Dr Alison O’Shea. Image credit: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
  • NeuroBell has developed an AI-powered medical device to accurately detect seizures in newborns, which can reduce the risk of long-term brain injury.
  • Seizures are the most common sign of brain injury, signalling the need for urgent treatment that can prevent further seizures and improve outcomess.
  • The start-up has secured an investment of €2.1m to fund product development, clinical trials, and the creation of new jobs.

University College Cork has announced the spin-out of NeuroBell, a Cork-based medtech start-up, as NeuroBell closes a €2.1M investment led by Furthr VC, Atlantic Bridge and HBAN MedTech Syndicate, with Enterprise Ireland and other private investors also investing in the round.

The funding will enable NeuroBell to launch its ground-breaking technology for real-time and accurate detection of seizures in newborns needing additional care, enabling early intervention that can improve outcomes. To support its mission, NeuroBell will create 12 new jobs by 2025.

Founded by Dr Mark O’Sullivan, Dr Alison O’Shea and Colm Murphy, and a spin-out from University College Cork and the Irish Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research (INFANT), NeuroBell aims to address a critical gap in the availability and accuracy of current technologies used to detect seizures in newborns admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Early detection of seizures is crucial for enabling early interventions in infants with brain injury and may help reduce the impact of life-changing conditions such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

Currently, continuous electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring is used to monitor newborn brain activity, however, these devices are cumbersome, have limited availability and require specialised training to operate and interpret results. A lack of expertise in this area leads to overlooked and untreated seizures.

Using embedded edge-AI, NeuroBell has developed an easy-to-use, pocket-sized wireless brain monitor which can detect seizures in NICU patients. The technology enables routine monitoring of babies across various hospital settings without the need for specialised expertise. The user-friendly system eliminates the need for extensive training in both configuration and result interpretation.

Supported by the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund, NeuroBell is now focused on securing FDA approval before launching its device in the US market in 2024, followed by the European market. The funding will enable NeuroBell to develop its product further, carry out additional clinical trials and expand its team. The new roles will be in engineering, quality assurance, and business development. The company expects to begin commercial sales of its medical device in 2025.

NeuroBell estimates that approximately two million newborns worldwide suffer from brain injuries at birth. The company expects its device to have a significant impact on the health outcomes of babies who are receiving additional medical care following a traumatic birth. It could also have a considerable impact on financial burden of claims against the state. In Ireland, catastrophic birth injuries account for the single most costly category of claims for the HSE.

Dr Mark O’Sullivan, Co-founder & CEO, NeuroBell, said: “This funding marks a significant leap forward in advancing our goal to launch the product and get it into the hands of clinicians around the world to help newborn patients. It speaks volumes about our incredible team, who are passionate about using novel technologies to solve this critical medical need. Our solution will improve newborn care, offering gold standard brain monitoring with automated decision support to patients in all settings, including regional and tertiary hospitals.”

Richard Watson, Managing Partner, Furthr VC, said: “We are very excited to be backing NeuroBell as they set out on bringing a truly transformative and ground-breaking neonatal monitoring device to market, which will impact the survival and long-term neurological outcomes of tens of thousands of babies in critical care. We are highly impressed by the founding team and what they have achieved to date in UCC prior to spinning out. They have a very clear regulatory, clinical and commercial plan for launching the product, and I’m really look forward to working closely with them on this journey.”

Conor O’Sullivan, Investment Director, Atlantic Bridge University Fund, said: “Having worked closely with NeuroBell’s management team, Enterprise Ireland and UCC Innovation during the company’s Commercialisation Fund we have seen the significant technical and commercial progress made by Mark, Alison and Colm. Atlantic Bridge invests in ambitious founders developing deep technology that has the potential to provide solutions to complex problems. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the NeuroBell team over the coming years and leveraging our global platform and network to support the company.”

Dr Sally Cudmore, Director, UCC Innovation, said: “NeuroBell is a great example of UCC’s ambition to nurture entrepreneurial talent, with Dr O’Sullivan having participated in multiple business support programmes hosted by UCC Innovation including the SPRINT Accelerator and IGNITE start-up incubation programmes. The significant investment that the team has secured is testament to a strong leadership team and innovative technology. As a Limited Partner in the University Fund II managed by Atlantic Bridge, UCC is delighted to see that fund invest in NeuroBell and their mission to develop technology that will have a significant impact on newborns’ brain health.”

Professor Geraldine Boylan, INFANT Director, said: “We are extremely proud of the achievements of the NeuroBell team and congratulate them warmly on this exciting milestone and significant investment. As the INFANT Centre turns 10 years old, NeuroBell clearly demonstrates how years of multi-disciplinary research combining engineering, neuroscience and neonatology can be translated into innovative devices to help identify newborn babies at risk of seizures.”

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF