Cork AI detects brain injuries in babies

CergenX aims to improve brain health monitoring in newborns by developing algorithms for screening all babies at birth for abnormal brain activity.

Cork-start-up CergenX has developed technology that will enable early intervention by medical professionals to improve outcomes for newborn babies.

The start-up is using recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the early detection of abnormal brain activity in babies at birth.

“The majority of brain development takes place within the first few years of life so early detection of any abnormal brain activity is critical”

CergenX was founded in 2021 to develop algorithms and systems for monitoring and detection of brain abnormalities at scale. The company is focused on leveraging research in this area to develop and commercialize algorithms for detection of abnormal activity. CergenX is an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up (HPSU) company. 

Early detection is key

New born baby surrounded by cuddly toys.

CergenX says that at least five in every 1,000 newborn babies may have some degree of brain injury. Unfortunately, this is often undetected until the infant is much older when parents notice developmental problems, which can have lifelong consequences.

Currently, the most common method for assessing brain function in newborn babies involves the use of electroencephalography (EEG) which measures the tiny electrical impulses of the brain. However, EEGs are complex to read, time consuming and there is often a shortage of trained specialists available. It is therefore not possible to test all newborn babies.

According to CergenX CSO Geraldine Boylan, early detection of abnormal brain activity is critical.

“The majority of brain development takes place within the first few years of life so early detection of any abnormal brain activity is critical. Early detection is essential for improving the outcome for the child and indeed their family. There are a growing range of treatments and interventions available for newborn brain injury, but we need to know which babies are at highest risk as soon as possible”

The company has a large brainwave databank for training brain screening AI algorithms which will be embedded in medical devices.

“We are in discussions with medical device manufacturers who are interested in incorporating our software solutions into their devices,” said CEO Jason Mowles.

“This is the start of a revolution in the use of AI for newborn brain healthcare, and CergenX intends to be at the forefront of this.

“This is incredibly exciting and rewarding work and we have a real opportunity to make a major difference in a vital area of newborn healthcare.”

CergenX is a spin out from the INFANT Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC). The INFANT Centre has been at the forefront of newborn brain research since it was founded by Professor Geraldine Boylan in 2013.

Professor Boylan co-founded CergenX in conjunction with Jason Mowles (CEO) and Sean Griffin (CTO) to bring the benefits of this research to newborn babies worldwide.

The company has assembled a diverse team with expertise in the newborn brain, AI, commercialisation, software development, finance, funding and regulatory expertise to achieve this goal.

UCC’s Director of Innovation, Dr Sally Cudmore, congratulated the CergenX team saying: “This new UCC spin-out company is a strong example of the potential of clinical research to directly improve neonatal health care. CergenX will convert many years of excellent UCC research into technologies for direct clinical use to improve patient outcomes for infants.”

Donnchadh Cullinan, Head of ICT High Potential Start-Up, Enterprise Ireland, added: “CergenX has the potential to transform infant healthcare, and to have a real impact on the lives of infants and families around the world. The leadership team at CergenX are an excellent example of Ireland’s rich collaborative ecosystem at work, and Enterprise Ireland is proud to support and back the next generation of Irish businesses who are creating innovative solutions to complex and challenging issues every day.”

Main image at top: Sean Griffin, CTO, Geraldine Boylan, CSO, and Jason Mowles, CEO of CergenX

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.