A new technology that will enable patients suffering from ALS—commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease—to communicate via brain monitor, will hold its first clinical trials in Philadelphia. Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02) was on hand for the announcement, made Tuesday at the BrainTech Israel conference in Tel Aviv.
The announcement came days after Fattah and Dr. Philip Low, who patented the device, met in Fattah's Capitol Hill office to discuss future opportunities to partner around neuroscience, and encourage investment in brain technology in the U.S.
Low, founder and CEO of NeuroVigil, a San Diego-based company, have filed a patent for the new brain monitor—the world's smallest yet. Low has presented early evidence of the brain monitor's success to the nearly 700 assembled investors, scientists, researchers and patients. Conference attendees watched on video as an ALS patient (the first ever to do so) spelled his first word without using his body, by using non-invasive, single-channel, mind-enabled communication. Low has developed other technologies using the monitor to test on patients in various stages of ALS.
In the U.S., approximately 5,600 individuals are diagnosed with ALS each year. Some estimate that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time.
"We are starting an entire ALS center at NASA to work with people who have pathologies. We are going to continue the clinical trial in Philadelphia. We are delighted to work with Congressman Fattah and the president [Obama] on the BRAIN initiative," said Low. "And we're working to create a neurotechnology cluster that will enable us to work together—whether we're in the U.S. or Israel, or anywhere else in the world."
The satellite research laboratory will operate from NASA's Research Park in Mountain View, Calif., and will allow Low to continue developing the assistive technologies before starting trials for the new technology. Low, who created the iBrain—a portable neural device that monitors and diagnoses brain conditions—previously held clinical trials for his research at Drexel University in Philadelphia.