20 February 2002
Bioscientists pursue advances in epilepsy diagnosis
A TEAM of bioscientists at Aston University is developing a new solution that will speed up the process of analysing the human recordings of electrical activity of the brain when tell-tale signs of epilepsy are detected. The solution will provide a safe, intelligent 'warning' system to make for quicker and easier diagnosis.
If successful, the new solution will undoubtedly help reduce the number of epilepsy misdiagnosis cases such as those highlighted last November in which 1500 children were diagnosed incorrectly by a doctor at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. At the time it was reported that of those examined, 93% of the 'undertrained' doctor's cases involved wrong treatments.
Aston University's Dr Christopher James is quick to point out that last year's reports did not specify what had gone wrong at the Leicester Infirmary: 'so it is not right to claim this wouldn't have happened if [our solution] had been in place,' he said. It could have been that epilepsy was misdiagnosed, that the wrong treatment was given, or both.
Dr James also made it clear that there are trained professionals who themselves look for the same tell-tale signs of epilepsy as will his solution. 'But,' he said, 'the processes they are using are more taxing and take longer to analyse.' The solution provided by Dr James and Professor David Lowe will also be less prone to human error than current processes: 'our claim is to have made the process a quicker and more accurate one,' Dr James added.
The team received �4000 to further develop their research. They were awarded the money after submitting details of their work to the UK Bioscience Business Plan Competition organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Their work was shortlisted for development into a full business plan which will give them access to a coach and a comprehensive network of mentors from the finance, accountancy, legal, regulatory, manufacturing and HR sectors. Dr James and Professor Lowe are in the process of setting up a company, provisionally called EMbody Biosignals, to utilise the funding. The ultimate winners of the competition will receive a prize of �20,000 to help them further develop their business plan.
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Notes for editors:
For details of the UK Bioscience Business Plan Competition 2001 see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/business/skills/plan/Welcome.html#1
For details of the Leicester Royal Infirmary case see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/england/newsid_1685000/1685445.stm