The second Monday of February has been International Epilepsy Day for some years now. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people have epileptic seizures at unpredictable moments. Everyone is aware of motor seizures, which go with repeated automatic movements and unconsciousness. Yet, about 15 percent of all people with epilepsy suffer from so-called 'absence' seizures, also known as ‘petits mals’. A short circuit in the brain provokes a seizure that is very difficult to notice.
Also Daan, the son of Epihunter founder Tim Buckinx, suffers from epileptic absence seizures. "The worst thing in his opinion was that people around him - us parents, but also teachers at school - were angry with him," Tim Buckinx explains. "We assumed he was daydreaming and heard us but in reality he was having a seizure. Daan asked me to create a light that turns on when his brain switches off."
That is exactly what Epihunter's five-man team, with extensive experience in the technology sector, did. "Children who suffer from silent epileptic seizures wear an elegant EEG headband in the classroom; the type of headset also used for meditation training. The headband transmits a continuous data stream about brain activity to a smartphone upright on the child’s desk. When the child has a seizure, a mathematical algorithm developed by Epihunter turns on the smartphone’s flashlight. The app keeps track of how long the seizures last and when they took place. All data is stored in our cloud platform."
Anyone with epileptic absence seizures can use Epihunter, but the start-up focuses on school children between 6 and 12 years old. "Because the seizures have a big impact on that group of children", Tim Buckinx explains. "With Epihunter, the teacher immediately sees that a child has an epileptic seizure, and he or she can simply repeat missed subject matter when the seizure ended. No more misunderstandings, which also gives students more self-confidence. Parents are now reassured that seizures do not remain unnoticed anymore at school and can be dealt with appropriately."
Kick-off crowdfunding campaign
Epihunter is currently undergoing extensive testing among families in Belgium and the Netherlands. The startup was created with the support of imec.istart, the province of Limburg and the Start it @KBC accelerator, where innovative and scalable entrepreneurship is key. A new capital round is in the pipeline. Today Epihunter also launches a large crowdfunding campaign. Through Indiegogo, one of the world's largest crowdfunding platforms, parents of children with absence epilepsy can purchase a year's subscription as ambassadors at a reduced rate. From April 2018, they will be the first to start using Epihunter.
In order to further develop Epihunter and help as many children as possible, both at school and at home, the startup works closely with academic hospitals and the Flemish Epilepsy League. Even the first contacts with Boston Children's Hospital, one of the most renowned children's hospitals in the world, have already been established.
Prof. Paul Boon, president of the Epilepsy League: "With the Epilepsy League, we will support Epihunter with the scientific validation of their application. In this way, the app can give researchers more insight into absence epilepsy and contribute to new treatments."
For more information: www.epihunter.com.