An early-stage business idea to commercialise a non-contact device to measure eye movement as an indicator of brainstem activity has won a University College Dublin commercialisation award.

The business idea, which significantly overcomes the limitations of the current measurement system, has won the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme.

Ocular MicroTremor (OMT) is a tiny, involuntary fixational movement of the human eye which occurs even when the eye is apparently still and is caused by constant activity of of brainstem oculomotor units.

Clinical interest in the measurement of OMT exists as it can be applied to provide an indication of brainstem activity or alertness, including the effect of concussion or head trauma; predication of coma outcome; optimising drug dose delivery associated with anaesthesia and treating patients with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, and unambiguous brainstem death confirmation.

However safe, clinically acceptable, accurate and comfortable measurements of OMT signals are quite difficult due to their physiologically high frequency range (centred at ~ 84 Hz with a range of +/- 7 Hz) and small amplitude range (from 25 nm up to 2500 nm peak-to-peak).

The current standard time consuming method of measuring OMT frequency is to invasively place a sterilised, single use piezo-electric probe or needle firmly and uncomfortably against an individual’s sclera (the white of the eye) and to measure the resulting qualitative signal.

The winning business idea, which has emerged from the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme, is based on commercialising the indirect Brainstem Activity Monitor.

The indirect Brainstem Activity Monitor is a non-contact, non-invasive, fast and portable optical measurement device which combines innovative optical engineering hardware and software algorithms to overcome limitations of current measurement system.

The non-contact sensing device provides a single number result similar to a ‘pulse’ measurement. It is safe, fast, reliable, accurate and quantitative. Being a portable device it can also be used in a clinical or sports setting and is easy-to-operate.

The promoters of this early-stage business idea are Professor John T. Sheridan, Professor of Optical Engineering, UCD Earth Institute and UCD School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering and Dr James P. Ryle who completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Sheridan.

Dr Ryle is currently an independent research consultant who has been working with Professor Sheridan on this and other optical engineering solution driven business ideas. Some of this work has been partly supported through Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher scheme.

The UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme is a 1-day initiative designed and delivered by UCD’s technology transfer and enterprise development teams at NovaUCD in collaboration with the UCD Earth Institute.

The programme aims to encourage the development of commercial outputs arising from engineering research taking place at UCD by engaging with researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process.

Speaking at the presentation of the Award, Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “I would like to congratulate Professor Sheridan and Dr Ryle on winning the 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Award. This early-stage engineering business idea to commercialise a non-contact method of measuring Ocular MicroTremor (OMT) has the potential to make a significant impact in the health industry in Ireland and internationally.”

“Our objective with the Sprint Programmes is to engage with UCD researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process and to use internal and external experts to assist them in understanding and defining more clearly the commercial potential of the outputs emerging from their world-class research activities.”

He added, “Our team at NovaUCD was delighted to have worked again in partnership with the UCD Earth Institute in the design and delivery of this Sprint programme, which was focused on testing new engineering business ideas in an exciting and fun environment.”

During the 1-day 2015 UCD Engineering Innovation Sprint Programme a number of internal and external technology and business professionals collaborated with the UCD researchers to explore the commercial potential of transforming their research ideas into early-stage engineering business ideas.

At the end of the programme Professor Sheridan and Dr Ryle were presented with an award and a €1,000 prize fund to assist them to further develop the business idea, as it was judged to have the most commercial potential.

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