Cerebra’s sleep science innovation is waking up the medtech industry
Winnipeg company featured in MedTech Conference competition
Everyone has experienced the groggy aftermath of a single restless night, however, chronic sleep disorders can result in a number of health-concerning problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, memory issues and weakened immunity. Recognizing that achieving the best sleep starts with understanding the brain, Winnipeg-based Cerebra Health is leveraging its scientific founder Dr. Magdy Younes’ decades of research and technological innovation to put the company and the city, on the cutting edge of sleep science.
During his tenure as the Director of the Health Sciences Centre’s (HSC) sleep lab, Dr. Younes saw that sleep medicine was lagging behind other fields in the application of digital technology and how it could improve patient care. In an attempt to harness the power of brain data, Dr. Younes developed his first tech advancement in 2010 Michele Sleep Scoring. It was a software that scanned physiological data, ranging from brainwaves to leg movements, to digitally produce a report equal to that of a sleep technologist using manual scoring. At the heart of the system was a new algorithm, ORP Sleep Depth, a highly accurate marker of sleep quality that the company is now advancing into the forefront of clinical sleep research.
“The interesting thing is the technology used 40 years ago isn’t that different from what you’d see today at any sleep lab in Canada,” says Dawson Reimer, CEO of Cerebra Health Inc. “Sure, the way sleep technicians look at and score studies are now on a computer but the majority of sleep studies are still visually scored in 30-second increments using rules developed in the 1960s to classify sleep. [They’re] using an analog method to evaluate a digital signal, and so much rich information is lost that can be used to understand sleep issues better.”
In addition to limitations of manual sleep data analysis, he also points to the limited capabilities of home sleep testing. Undoubtably, this option makes patients more comfortable, but the current systems don’t measure EEG brain wave activity. “Information on how the patient is actually sleeping is lost,” he explains.
Cerebra is working to merge the benefits of both options with the industry’s first, clinical quality, self-applied level 2 home sleep study — called Cerebra Complete — which provides the same information patients would get staying overnight in a sleep lab but in the comfort of their own bed. The company then uses its proprietary digital sleep analysis to generate a wealth of additional information to guide diagnosis and treatment.
“Proper diagnosis of a disorder is fundamental to an efficient and effective healthcare system. The digitalization of sleep analysis is long overdue and already starting to provide valuable insights,” he states, pointing to insomnia as a great example. “Among other things, our research is showing how one of our proprietary metrics, sleep sensitivity, can help identify what type of insomnia a patient may have and help guide treatment.”
The importance of understanding the impact of sleep when it comes to overall health and well-being is being recognized by numerous medical fields, and as such has led to national, and international partnerships for the Winnipeg-based company.
More recently, Cerebra Health was selected from an applicant pool of 1,000+ companies from across Europe and North America to participate in the California-based MedTech Innovator program, the premier nonprofit startup accelerator in the medical technology industry. The goal is to match high-potential medtech startups with senior industry leaders to receive in-depth, customized mentorship and support. Cerebra is one of only two Canadian companies eligible for the MedTech Start-up of the year competition and will be featured this month at the MedTech Conference, the industry’s largest annual conference.
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“Acceptance into the MedTech Accelerator program is not only a recognition of the disruptive potential of our technology but more importantly it’s an invaluable opportunity to work with a network of leading investors, providers, payers and industry stakeholders,” states Reimer. “We always have had international aspirations and objectives, especially in the U.S. The MedTech program is opening up access to a broad group of industry experts and mentors just as we set our sights on launching there.”
The company is equally motivated to continue its research right here in Winnipeg at the Misericordia Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Centre, with support from the Province’s Innovation Growth Program, and alongside a close-knit, local network of diverse bioscience and medtech companies.
"Our entire leadership team has broad, international experience but they are here because of their passion for the city and the province — a passion we share with Dr. Younes - and we are excited to grow Cerebra here at home.”
To learn more about Cerebra Health visit cerebra.health
Developing ground-breaking sleep technology is just one of Dr. Younes’ world-renowned contributions created in Winnipeg. His extensive research in the areas of respirology and respiratory physiology led him to design a ventilator in the 1990s that has promising applications in today’s fight against COVID-19. Click here to learn more.