UCB taps wearable maker Byteflies for seizure study

By Jonah Comstock
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UCB, a global pharmaceutical company, is partnering with Belgian American health startup Byteflies to use the startup's wearable sensors to monitor seizures.

Byteflies makes a customizable wearable device for the pharma and healthcare industries called Sensor Dot. It's a quarter-sized sensor that can be worn around the wrist or attached anywhere on the body as a patch. It's capable of measuring photoplethysmography , electrocardiography, respiration, motion, electrodermal activity, and electromyography.

Byteflies CEO Hans Danneels told MobiHealthNews that a combination of those sensors would be used in the seizure study.

"In the seizure study, our technology is used to measure a combination of brain, heart and respiration signals," he wrote in an email. "That way, it is possible to do more accurate seizure detection and detect different types of seizures. With our wearables, it will be possible to do this in a discrete way (behind the ear or even in-ear) instead of having big and uncomfortable systems. Currently, our technology is used in tests on patients in the University Hospital in Leuven, in parallel with standard medical equipment, to benchmark and optimize the targeted solution."

The technology is also designed with researchers in mind, giving them access to the raw sensor data rather than analyzing and processing it first like many consumer-focused health wearables.

“In partnership with Byteflies, UCB is excited to be at the forefront of next generation wearables, collaborating to evaluate the benefits of measuring patient symptoms and experiences which, in the future, could support individually tailored care approaches,” Erik Janssen, VP and head of innovative solutions for UCB's Neurology Patient Value Unit, said in a statement. “Everything we do at UCB is inspired by patients, and driven by science. In this regard, harnessing technology and innovation are crucial elements in our mission to provide maximum value to those patients who need it the most."

This is not the first time UCB has partnered with another company around wearables and sensors. UCB has been working with Cambridge-based wearable sensor company MC10 for several years, studying Parkinson's. The results from that trial are due out this year. The Belgium-based drugmaker also partnered with Garmin earlier this year to launch Wellness4U, a health and wellness platform for people living with immunologic disorders which includes, as one aspect, an activity tracker pilot program.

In addition to scoring a large pharma partnership, Byteflies also announced its first seed funding: $600,000 from private investors in the US and Boston.

"We are very pleased with this funding, which will not only give us the necessary resources to grow, but also provides us with the expertise of our investors to lead our company towards the next step," Danneels said in a statement.