Brain wave takes Aussie medtech to the world
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Thousands of South Koreans will benefit from Australia’s innovative medical
technology after Cortical Dynamics signed an agreement to distribute its
Brain Anaesthesia Response Monitor (BARM) in the country.
The agreement will see the device distributed to hospitals across Korea,
where it will assist anaesthetists and intensive care staff to monitor
patients under anaesthesia and to minimise the incidence of side effects.
‘The Korean deal was Cortical’s first international distribution agreement
for our BARM,’ says David Breeze, Executive Director, Cortical Dynamics.
‘Once our distributor obtains the necessary regulatory approvals, the
monitor should be available in hospitals by the end of 2018.’
A new way of EEG monitoring
Cortical Dynamics was founded to commercialise technology developed at
Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. The BARM was the result of
research undertaken by Professor David Liley, a senior researcher within
the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne. Professor Liley
co-founded Cortical Dynamics and is its Chief Scientific Officer.
The BARM monitors the effect of anaesthetic agents on brain activity via an
adhesive sensor applied to the forehead, helping anaesthetists keep
patients optimally anaesthetised. It incorporates the latest scientific
understanding of how the brain’s electrical activity – the
electroencephalogram (EEG) – is produced.
While there are many EEG monitors on the market, these systems produce EEG
indexes based on statistical approaches. However, every patient has unique
physiological attributes that may affect the EEG indexes generated by such
‘There is a need for a system that can reliably quantify a patient’s
anaesthetic state,’ says Breeze. ‘What makes the BARM different from other
devices is that its underlying algorithm produces EEG indexes based on the
physiological state of the patient’s brain.’
The BARM can produce readings within two seconds, compared to 30 seconds
for competing devices. It is also sensitive enough to detect several
classes of anaesthesia and analgesics, which other devices cannot, and identify changes in brain function and other brain
‘By improving the way patients are monitored, there is potential to reduce
the amount of anaesthetics and analgesics used in medical procedures,’ says
Breeze. ‘Patients will take less time to wake up post-operatively, fewer
people will be required to monitor them, and they can be moved out of
operating rooms and into wards to recover. Hospitals will ultimately save
time and money.’
Cortical holds 22 patents worldwide for the BARM. The device is used at
hospitals in Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns in Australia; Hamilton (at a
leading international centre for the evaluation of anaesthetic monitoring
approaches), New Zealand; and Paris, France.
A perfect medtech match in Korea
Cortical was interested in Korea as an export market because of its embrace
of medical technology, sophisticated healthcare system and the Korean
Government’s strong support for the biotechnology and healthcare
The Korean Ministry of Science and ICT has designated brain research as one
of its five main fields to receive the greater part of its investments. In
particular, the ministry has prioritised the development of technologies to
meet social issues such as ‘brain mapping’ and early diagnosis services for
‘They are also interested in developing technologies for customised brain
disease treatment, neuro-rehabilitating brain stimulation and optimised
learning capability for four major fields in brain research – brain
disease, cranial nerve, brain and cognitive science, and brain engineering.
‘These are all areas in which our expertise, research and technology can
make a significant contribution,’ says Breeze.
Austrade key to success
The distribution agreement arose as a result of an invitation from Austrade
to attend and present at the Australia Medtech Innovation Showcase in Korea
in 2016. Organised by Austrade, the event enabled Australian medtech
companies to showcase their products and services to leading Korean
pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.
In addition to presenting the BARM at the event, Cortical was introduced to
senior medical staff and professors in anaesthesia at Korea’s leading
teaching hospitals and a number of Korean businesses, including its
eventual distributor. Austrade also provided Cortical with insights into
Korea’s healthcare industry and medtech sector to assist with the company’s
‘Austrade was instrumental in helping us secure the Korean distribution
agreement,’ says Breeze. ‘They paved the way for us to enter a market with
a strong need for our system.’
Next stop: Europe
In April 2018, Cortical signed its first European distribution agreement,
which will see the BARM available across Belgium, Luxembourg and the
Netherlands. Around 70 per cent of operations in Europe use Total
Intravenous Anaesthesia (TIVA), a method of inducing and maintaining
general anaesthesia without the use of inhalation agents.
‘European regulations state monitoring devices must be used in all TIVA
operations, so there is significant sales potential for our monitor,’ says
A device with many applications
Cortical’s technology is versatile enough to be applied to other EEG-based
markets, such as neuro-diagnostic, drug discovery, drug evaluation and the
emerging Brain Computer Interface market. The company has had discussions
with a global medical device manufacturer to develop its technology.
‘We can develop the monitor to carry out additional functions such as
neuro-diagnostics of changes in brain and memory functions, which will help
provide early warning of degenerative diseases, pain response and
tranquilizer monitoring for trauma patients in intensive care units,’ says
Breeze. ‘There are many avenues for us to develop our technology to meet
the world’s health and medical needs.’
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