A Bethesda technology company owned in part by Steve Case’s Revolution LLC gained yardage this week in its bid to help the National Football League and other sports organizations diagnose traumatic brain injuries.
BrainScope, which has 30 employees, announced Thursday that it received an additional $500,000 from the NFL and General Electric to keep working on its portable concussion-assessment system. The company is one of six finalists that the NFL and GE have chosen to fund as they search for answers on the best ways to diagnose brain trauma.
“This award allows us to fund further development studies,” said BrainScope chief executive Michael Singer. “It allows us to develop this technology, which could be fielded in a whole array of venues, starting in high schools, colleges and ultimately in professional sports leagues.”
Singer said the $500,000 will be used to conduct more studies at the high school level.
Traumatic brain injury, including concussions, has become a growing public health issue as concerns have mounted over the lasting consequences of head injuries sustained by players in a variety of sports, not just football. It also has become a focus in the medical world because of similar injuries to combat veterans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players that could potentially exceed $765 million. The agreement provides up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.
BrainScope builds a handheld device called Ahead 200 that makes use of Google’s Android technology and electrodes on the front of a person’s skull to administer an electroencephalogram to measure electrical activity in the brain and determine if the person has suffered an injury.
The Food and Drug Administration cleared Ahead 200 in May.
BrainScope, which holds numerous patents on its work, has been awarded more than $27 million in Defense Department research contracts for the development of its technology and has received significant funding from private investors.
In addition to BrainScope, the other five finalists working with GE and the NFL on brain injuries are Banyan Biomarkers of San Diego; the Medical College of Wisconsin; Quanterix of Lexington, Mass.; the University of California at Santa Barbara; and the University of Montana.
A GE spokesman said the company likes BrainScope in part because the device it makes is close to commercialization.
“We are looking for a way of making innovation happen faster,” said Alan Gilbert, a director of health policy and community strategy at GE. “A company like BrainScope illustrates that goal. It’s a combination of a simple device [an electroencephalogram] that’s been around forever, disposable electrodes, but powerful analytics that drive quick decisions to manage patient care. That is pretty transformative in this space.”
Case, the former chairman of AOL, has been an investor in BrainScope for more than seven years. He brought the company from St. Louis to Bethesda around 2008 and has served on its board. His wife, Jean, now serves on the BrainScope board.
Revolution is Case’s investment vehicle, and it owns businesses in the health-care, financial services, resorts, wellness and digital sectors.