Startup Of The Week: NeuroEna
As most of us know, HealthTech startups are those that solve the problems of modern medicine and are considered the flagships of their fields. As one of those modern medicine flagships, we present you our Startup Of The Week – NeuroEna. It’s a startup that contributes to the creation of a more beautiful life for people with cerebral palsy.
During the interview, and this Q&A session, Lukas Arlauskas, Founder of NeuroEna, shares his future ambitions and plans for the startup.
Tell us about your startup. What is NeuroEna? And how does it work?
NeuroEna is an innovative solution for those who have dyskinesia and various neurological disorders. It includes but is not limited to dyskinetic cerebral palsy, Huntington’s chorea, and Parkinson’s disease. Talking about the working principle, it is a costume with implanted transcutaneous electrodes and when it detects the involuntary movements using our algorithm, it blocks the abnormality out, effectively leaving only voluntary movements.
What are your competitive advantages that work? What are your competitors?
We researched the various solutions that are out there for these disorders and we did find something that caught our attention. One of the solutions that are applied for Huntington’s chorea and other hyperkinetic patients is a medication called tetrabenazine. The idea behind tetrabenazine is not entirely clear, but it reduces the movements with one small caveat – it also causes depression, suicidal thoughts and therefore increases the risk of patient suicidality. The other better-known treatment for Parkinson’s disease is called deep brain stimulation. This treatment includes implanting the electrodes into the deeper parts of the brain. It does work however, I think that the risk of a brain hemorrhage, hallucinations, and difficulties in gait makes the patient give it a second thought. We are in no way shape or form opposing these treatments or deeming them bad, however, we are seeking to offer an alternative for those who might not want to face these risks.
What were the reasons behind coming up with this idea and launching this service?
The reasons behind this idea are personal and societal at the same time. I have a disorder called cerebral palsy and when I was a kid, these involuntary movements would get pretty bad to a point where I couldn’t feed myself with a spoon. It is quite embarrassing to say, but I spilled every cup I touched back in the day and while other kids could eat normally, I had to be fed. Now although it has normalized quite a bit since then, I know our potential clients’ pain very well and I honestly hope that it will fix many of those little kids’ lives.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
We plan on launching an exoskeleton which is in development now. The prototype for biodata reading has been completed and now we aim to harness the power of non-linear algorithms to detect all these involuntary movements.
Our target customers are like I mentioned, people who suffer from dyskinesia and might be willing to try other than just conventional treatment. We are aware that our treatment is not for everyone and that our concept has a few contraindications, so we are planning to develop an entire fitting process for these patients. Talking about the geography, we are quite ambitious but at the same time humble – we focus on putting the product to Lithuania’s market for the starters however we dream about expanding to other countries and potentially other regions. As far as potential clients are concerned, I personally talked with quite a few people that are facing the issues mentioned and they all single-handedly said that given the choice between the potential treatment options, every single one would choose the NeuroEna solution.
What are the biggest challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming it?
I would think that one of the most difficult things we faced while developing this project was a lack of medical knowledge and currently, we are facing the difficulty of finding a diverse pool of data. As far as the medical knowledge is concerned, we fought it in two ways: by joining with some medical students and by me taking an additional module in university about human anatomy. About the data pool, we are still searching for suitable testing subjects.
Tell us more about funding. How did you get it? Do you seek extra funding?
We are currently in a very early phase of the development, so all our funding is from hackathons or our personal funds. We are seeking additional funding to skyrocket the development and testing phases of the solution. Currently, I think that we will try to apply for the Inostart from the MITA agency and we will see from there.
Please introduce your team!
Our team consists out of five people:
- Lukas Arlauskas (me). I am studying computer science at the Kaunas University of Technology. My experience varies from the programming itself to project management to teaching people how to do programming. I started developing this idea quite a while ago and later naturally found my teammates. In our team, I serve as a leader, a contact person for everyone, a business developer, and an integrated app developer.
- Antanas Ramanauskas is also studying computer science and has experience in non-linear algorithms, business development, cybersecurity, and design. He is developing an algorithm with me and Ugnė. He will be the team member who will need to secure all the vulnerabilities of the device.
- Ugnė Glinskytė is a student of computer science, has experience in project management, design, machine learning, and web development. She will be working on the main device with us and also is concerned with design questions.
- Deimantė Krutulytė is our medicine student who helps us with wrapping our heads around medical concepts. We value her much because it is obvious that to explain something so complex is not the easiest task. She is concerned with clinical trials too.
- Simas Bašinskas is our robotics student. He has experience in electrical engineering, low-level programming and is concerned with developing the physical solution for us to put our software in.
Strong startup culture isn’t something that can be created overnight but it can be worked towards with some conscious moves. So what are your moves towards this?
We believe that every decision should be made collectively as a team to avoid miscommunication and certain things that might impede the development of the device. We are thinking ahead of time about the possible implications of us developing a device and are concerned with ethical questions that might arise in the future. Our team believes in consistent hard work and that through discipline we can achieve everything.
Bonus question: what’s next? Tell us about your future plans.
As I mentioned above our next plans are to apply for the Inostart at MITA and continue the development of the device and processes. We are actively looking for partnerships. As an ending remark, I want to add that we are grateful for such organizations like Startup Lithuania. It is a great feeling to be a part of the startup culture.
Lukas, thanks for such a nice interview!