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Device Spin-Off Raises $2.2M in Seed Funds

Brain circuits

(NIH.gov)

28 Dec. 2021. A medical technology company developing a sensor device that monitors catheters draining excess brain fluid is raising $2.2 million in seed funds. The work of Rhaeos Inc. in Evanston, Illinois is based on research in the biomedical engineering and materials science lab of John Rogers at Northwestern University, also in Evanston.

Rhaeos Inc., a three year-old enterprise, is developing a sensor that monitors the flow of cerebrospinal fluid or CSF, the liquid that helps protect the brain and spinal cord. In most people, the volume of CSF remains stable as the body creates new CSF to replace fluid absorbed into the blood stream. In rare cases, however, the blood stream does not absorb enough CSF and excess fluid builds up in cavities, called ventricles, in the brain. The abnormal build-up of excess CSF is called hydrocephalus, a congenital condition affecting infants, and older individuals from head trauma or neurological damage.

One of the treatments for hydrocephalus is a surgically implanted shunt, a catheter tube that drains excess CSF from brain ventricles to the chest or abdomen to enable the blood stream to absorb the fluid. According to Rhaeos, those catheters often fail — about half within two years — leading to headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and readmission to hospitals for diagnosis with CT or MRI scans, or more surgery.

Rogers and lab colleagues designed a simpler and more direct process that keeps a constant watch on the catheter, a non-invasive sensor worn on the skin above the tube that continuously monitors functioning of the catheter draining the fluid. The flexible sensor, about the size of a band-aid, measures temperature of the skin over the catheter. Those temperature measurements are translated with algorithms into the absence or presence and flow volume of CSF in the tube, then transmits the data via Bluetooth to a mobile app.

SBIR grants from NIH

A Rogers lab team led Siddharth Krishnan, now a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, tested the sensor device with five hydrocephalus patients, publishing the results in a Science Translational Medicine paper in Oct. 2018. The findings show the device accurately detects the presence of CSF, and distinguishes between normal and diminished flow, as well as detects catheter failure. The researchers also demonstrated the algorithms’ ability to translate data collected by the device into flow rates through the catheter.

Krishnan co-founded Rhaeos Inc. with Rogers in 2018 to commercialize the device the company calls FlowSense. Since then, the company received funding through Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR grants from National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of NIH, most recently in September 2021. The grant funds development of algorithms to more accurately measure CSF flow rates through FlowSense, with testing first in large animals, then in a clinical trial. That trial is already recruiting 40 participants with hydrocephalus at three sites in Chicago and San Francisco.

Rhaeos is raising $2.2 million in seed funds from a group of technology investors including Creative Ventures, Portal Innovations, Lateral Capital, Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, Kyto Life Science and Technology, Band of Angels, Northwestern University’s NXT Fund, University of Michigan Social Venture Fund, and other private investors.

“The elegant design of their sensor and approach to commercialization led by a team of experts in their respective fields are among the reasons why we invested in Rhaeos,” says Kulika Weizman, principal at Creative Ventures in a Rhaeos statement. Weizman adds that FlowSense, “has the potential to disrupt the wearable medical device space ….”

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