Austin’s 10-day South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive trade show has been ongoing since March 8, and has continued to showcase innovations, introductions, celebrations, and more related to the biotech industry. As we reported earlier, one notable event was the official celebration marking the collaboration of Shiner Beers and TGen to launch a nationwide diabetes awareness and fundraising effort. A splash was made by the Beam Robot, walking among colleagues in an innovative videoconference method that even caught the eye of basketball star Shaquille O’Neil.
Among the music, indie films, and innovative technology showcased at the event is the Interactive Accelerator competition, in which companies showcase their advancements in technology in a variety of categories. As the SXSW website states, this competition demonstrates “the most ambitious talents in the world with the most creative new ideas to change it.”
On March 11, 48 companies displayed their products, applications, and more, with 18 finalists being invited back the next day for final judging. There were six grand prizes in different technological categories, including News, Health, Innovative Web, Mobile Technologies, Entertainment and Gaming, and Social Technologies. The Health Technologies Winner at this year’s Interactive Accelerator competition at SXSW was an innovation that could change the future of a debilitating disease that affects over five million people. Neurotrack is a device that is designed to detect Alzheimer’s in patients up to six years before symptoms begin to appear. Until this innovative technology, the only way to detect Alzheimer’s in patients was by symptoms that display that irreparable damage has already been done. Elli Kaplan is the chief executive officer of the Richmond, Virginia based start-up, and compares the Alzheimer’s-detecting technology to the equivalent of mammograms for breast cancer.
Neurotrack is a computer-based program that comes in two versions – one using a computer mouse and one using an infrared camera. In either version, the program connects to an eye-tracking device that works to analyze the patient’s eye movements as they compare new and old images that appear on a screen.
“By monitoring the way a person moves their eyes, and watching how they view novel images versus familiar images, we’re able to detect perturbations that exist on the hippocampus.”
Among those taking the test, 100% of those that scored less than 50% correct with Neurotrack went on to be diagnosed with the disease within 6 years. Given its success rate in detecting Alzheimer’s in patients, the ultimate goal of the company is to not only act as a diagnostic tool, but also to help pharmaceutical companies use it to help create medications that can prevent the illness from doing its irreparable damage to the brain. Kaplan was quoted in Counsel & Heal as saying,
“In 10 years, our hope is that there will be a pill that you can take (to combat Alzheimer’s). You’d simply go in for an annual screening test-and if you get the news that you are on a trajectory for Alzheimer’s, you’d be able to do something about it.”
See a full list of the finalists and winners in other technological innovations in the 2013 SXSW Interactive Accelerator competition.