What goes on inside the mind of a baby? This startup aims to track infant neurodevelopment

Brainchild founder Carly Kiselycznyk pitches her idea at the Cambia Grove TRAILS competition. (Cambia Grove Photo)

What’s going on in the mind of a newborn child? That can be an extremely tough question to answer, but tracking things such as hearing loss and neurodevelopment from birth is critical to detect problems early on.

Brainchild, a startup that wants to make it easier and cheaper to track neurological progress in the minds of babies, won a startup competition hosted by Seattle-based healthcare innovation center Cambia Grove this week.

The Bend, Ore.-based company is working on a device that measures one of the few motor functions that infants can reliably control: the sucking reflex. The startup’s assessment tool screens babies for hearing loss and can be used by parents and general providers who lack sophisticated equipment.

“It’s a cheap device that parents can use at home to check their baby’s hearing more objectively,” said Brainchild founder Carly Kiselycznyk.

Cambia Grove’s TRAILS competition isn’t your typical startup pitch contest. Instead of cash, the winner for this iteration of the competition will get 15 days of in-hospital experience at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Seattle Children’s Hospital and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

“They’re going to be able to pick people’s brains in order to make their product better,” said Maura Little, executive director of Cambia Grove. Little said that healthcare startups often suffer from a lack of feedback since it’s expensive to test medical products in the real world.

The other finalists for the competition included Toggle Health, Turas Health Limited, Veta Health and Visom Technology.

Brainchild has created a consumer friendly-version of its pacifier device with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. Kiselycznyk plans to use the in-hospital experience to better understand how data on infant hearing is shared. She also wants to explore how hospitals can reduce risk factors that lead to late-onset hearing loss.

This was the second iteration of the TRAILS competition, which Cambia plans to host twice yearly. Last year, the winner of the first-ever TRAILS competition was Litesprite, a startup that makes games to treat mental health.

Portland-based Cambia Health Solutions, the parent company of Regence and other health-care companies, created Cambia Grove in 2015 as a way to break down the silos between startups coming into healthcare for the first time and established players in the market.

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