Integrated with brain signal detection and analysis algorithms developed by collaborator Roman Genov and his team at University of Toronto, and with electrical impedance about 100 time smaller than commercial products, the electrode uses significantly less current, Dr. Gabran says. “Other systems do continuous stimulation, but our algorithms can predict seizures, so the electrode starts stimulation only when a seizure is detected.”
His “flex electrode” also displays a substantially longer lifespan. “Because of more advanced electrodes and algorithms, our power consumption is 15 times lower than current products. Our battery lifetime is 32 years; theirs is only 2.5 years.”
Dr. Gabran’s design includes a novel post-processing technique for reducing the fabrication cost of medical electrodes, where precious metals are often required and manufacturing costs are consequently steep.
CMC Microsystems supported his work throughout the development process, he says, from access to Ansys software for all mechanical and electrical modelling and simulation, to providing financial assistance for fabrication work. Packaging and integration, challenging because of the very small dimensions and very thin layers of their device, were made easier because of engineering support from CMC. “They help us find unconventional solutions for our unconventional problems,” he says.
The early promise of this electrode work was recognized in 2012 when Dr. Gabran and his co-developer Arezu Bagheri of University of Toronto, were awarded the MEMSCAP CMC Award for best microsystem design award. The electrode technology is now being commercialized through Novela Inc., a startup company formed in 2013 by Dr. Gabran and Professors Mansour and Salama. The company received a vote of confidence last year when Dr. Gabran received the Ontario Brain Institute’s Entrepreneur Fellowship Award, providing funding and mentoring to commercialize his technology.
The next step is human trials of the electrode. In the meantime, they continue to collaborate with research groups in North America, Europe and Asia on improvements and other applications of their flexible electrode, including an electrode for diagnosing ALS, vision research and a flexible antennae for contact lenses to detect biomarkers in tears, offering a non-invasive alternative to blood sampling.
Dr. Gabran and his team at Novela are also preparing to offer their multilayer flexible fabrication process to other innovators working in thin-film devices and circuits.