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Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP Institute Announces Winning Solutions on Predicting and Preventing Life-Threatening Seizures

Epilepsy News From: Monday, December 19, 2016

Winners Awarded $40,000 for Submitting a Detailed Plan to Validate Biomarkers Predicting Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy

(Landover, MD) The Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy) Institute announced winners in the first milestone of the challenge to, “Developing Predictive Biomarkers of Epilepsy Seizures.” This is part of the fourth and final challenge, in partnership with InnoCentive, that will ultimately award more than $1 million in prizes.

Each year, more than 1 out of 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP. If seizures are not controlled, the risk increases to 1 out of 150. The SUDEP Institute challenged participants in the first of three Milestones to develop a detailed project plan for a predictive biomarker identifying people at risk for SUDEP or life-threatening seizures. Milestone 2 (proof of concept data) will be launched early in 2017, with further details to be found at InnoCentive Challenge.

Four solutions were each awarded $10,000:

  • Todd-McDonald.jpg Patrick H. Luckett; Dr. J. Todd McDonald (pictured); Dr. Lee M. Hively (University of Southern Alabama, Mobile, AL and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN) Goal: Develop a hardware-software implementation of seizure prediction and detection, using a smart-phone platform and headset to acquire scalp EEG. - "As the fourth most common neurological problem that affects over 3 million people in the United States alone, many people have friends, relatives, and family that are impacted personally by epilepsy," said Dr. J. Todd Mcdonald. "Our team shares this impact by having close relatives who suffered from epilepsy during battles with late stage dementia and family friends who are dealing with real-world treatment of epilepsy in children. Given that every year 1 out of 1000 people with epilepsy die from sudden unexpected death (SUDEP) due to uncontrolled seizures, we believe it is critical for research to move forward in treatment and therapy to help those that must deal with this debilitating disease. As such, we realize that our research in nonlinear methods for seizure prediction and detection has the potential to improve the lives of millions of patients who face the challenges of living with epilepsy and with doctors who are seeking better ways to diagnose and treat their patients. We are honored to be part of this InnoCentive challenge and are grateful that our proposal for the Milestone 1 submission to "The SUDEP Institute Challenge: Developing Predictive Biomarkers of Epilepsy Seizures" led to a favorable evaluation. We hope to bring novel ideas to this area of study that will result in truly reliable seizure prediction. Our goal is that our research can be ultimately implemented using low-cost, everyday smartphones and devices. Such an achievement would open up incredible opportunities for ambulatory diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. We look forward to moving forward into the next phases of the challenge to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of our approach, building upon almost 20 years of prior work."

  • Dr. Carolina Ciumas (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Switzerland) Goal: Study 500 patients with refractory epilepsy at high risk of SUDEP using an optimized MRI/fMRI investigation of brainstem structure and function. - "I have been working in the fields of epilepsy research for more than a decade, and have met patients of all ages with various types of epilepsy," said Dr. Carolina Ciumas. "I know the struggles of a child that is asking why is he different and is afraid of getting a seizure in the classroom, I understand the frustration of a teenager that can not take driving lessons due to uncontrollable seizures and I have met wonderful patients that wanted to do as many investigations as one could do to help us get forward in our research. SUDEP became a focus of my attention in the last several years, our research team has some experience in studying SUDEP. I believe the proposed project could really provide a reliably and easily to implement method to identify the biomarker of very high risk of SUDEP."

  • Dr. Kenneth A. Loparo; Dr. Samden D. Lhatoo; Bilal Zonjy; Dr. Farhad Kaffashi; Dr. Wanchat Theeranaew; James McDonald (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH)  Goal: Extract information from existing data on PGES (postictal generalized EEG suppression) from multiple centers in the USA and UK.

  • shobi.jpg.jpeg Shobi Sivathamboo (pictured); Terence J. O’Brien; Patrick Kwan; Rajesh Vasa; Kon Mouzakis; Nigel C. Jones; Jeremy Goldin; Dr. Nicola Pastorello; Maria Mitrevska (The University of Melbourne, Australia; Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia; Deakin University, Australia)  Goal: Identify physiological patterns that may be present in patients both during and in-between seizures, which may differ in patients at risk of SUDEP. - "There are currently no known interventions or screening methods for patients at risk of SUDEP, which often occurs in isolation at night," said Shobi Sivathamboo. "For patients and their loved ones, this is no way to live. We aim to identify patients at risk of SUDEP by using novel approaches to detect patterns in physiological data which can be measured with simple and non-invasive methods. Our team comprises highly motivated young and established researchers from various backgrounds including clinicians, scientists, engineers, and physicists. Our hope is that this solution can improve the lives of patients with chronic epilepsy, and reduce the number of lives lost to this tragic and unforeseeable occurrence."

“The SUDEP Institute Challenge has introduced us to many different experts from various professional backgrounds, with a common goal of preventing sudden death in epilepsy,” said Susan Vosburgh, Senior Director of the SUDEP Institute at the Epilepsy Foundation. “We are very eager to move forward with each of the winning solutions and give hope to the 3 million people living with epilepsy in the United States, and the millions more around the world.”  

The Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP Institute challenge aims to predict sudden death in epilepsy or seizures that compromise cardiac or respiratory function in people with epilepsy. These predictors will drive human SUDEP interventions. Since the severity and frequency of seizures is currently the leading risk factor for SUDEP, a biomarker that can predict seizures, especially convulsive seizures that compromise cardiac or respiratory function, will be included in the challenge.



About Epilepsy and SUDEP

When a person has two unprovoked seizures or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more, they are considered to have epilepsy. Epilepsy affects 3 million people in the U.S. and 65 million worldwide. This year, another 150,000 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Because available treatments do not completely control their seizures, 3 out of 10 people with epilepsy continue to experience uncontrolled seizures while many more experience less than optimal seizure control. SUDEP is the leading epilepsy-related cause of death; each year in the U.S., SUDEP kills more than 2,750 people with epilepsy.

About the Epilepsy Foundation SUDEP Institute

The SUDEP Institute is an initiative led by the Epilepsy Foundation that carries out SUDEP education and awareness programs for people affected by epilepsy and for medical professionals; drives and supports research into the causes of and ways to prevent SUDEP; offers a support network providing bereavement support, community, and resources for individuals and families affected by SUDEP; and works together with many epilepsy organizations to find the answers to SUDEP. For additional information, please visit epilepsy.com/sudep-institute.

About the Epilepsy Foundation

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with nearly 50 local organizations throughout the U.S., has led the fight against seizures since 1968.  The Foundation is an unwavering ally for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is: to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives. The Foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. For additional information, please visit epilepsy.com.

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Contact Name

LeAnn Harley

Contact Phone

(301) 918-3721

Contact Email


Reviewed Date

Monday, December 19, 2016

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