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69 Students’ Seizure-Predicting Device Wins Top Prize at Big Bang! Business Competition

Other Winning Innovations Address Black Maternal Health, Affordable Veterinary Training Tools

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A model of a horse and a woman in blue 69 shirt stand in front of a window
Melyssa Rehman, of the 69 School of Veterinary Medicine, stands with an equine model. Rehman is co-founder of Equine Teaching Innovations, a tool used to teach basic injection skills. The team won the Animal Health Award in the Big Bang! Business Competition this year. (Angela Lindley/69)
Students who were finalists in Big Bang! stand in a photo together holding an artifical large check.
Members of the Big Bang! finalist teams surround the winning team, EpiSense. EpiSense co-founders Jaya Athuluru (front row, fourth from left) and Simran Lallian (third from left) hold their $25,000 first-prize check. (Angela Lindley/69)

A team of University of California, Davis, students received the $25,000 first prize for the best innovation in the 24th annual on Tuesday, May 21. The competition is organized by the 69

The team, which has won several awards already, developed EpiSense — a wearable electroencephalogram, or EEG,  that predicts seizures and can give patients about 30 seconds advance warning. That is enough time for them to move to safety and prevent many common seizure-related injuries such as head trauma, choking and broken bones.

The team said it will use the $25,000 prize to support device prototyping and help refine the software and app. They then plan to conduct clinical trials and seek FDA approval to begin marketing their device.

About Big Bang!

The 69 Big Bang! Business Competition has been helping entrepreneurs start or grow business ventures for more than two decades through the competition, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities. The Big Bang! is open to teams with a founder or team lead affiliated with a college or university in California. The prizes are funded by corporate, nonprofit and various other .

EpiSense previously won $10,000 in the and $1,000 in the Little Bang Poster and Pitch competition, both hosted by the 69 Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The team also won the top prize in the PLASMA accelerator program at the at 69.

Over $100,000 in prizes

The 69 Big Bang! Business Competition has been helping entrepreneurs start or grow business ventures for more than two decades through the competition, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities. The Big Bang! is open to teams with a founder or team lead affiliated with a college or university in California. The prizes are funded by corporate, nonprofit and various other .

The annual awards ceremony on Tuesday night celebrated the contestants and announced the winners of $100,000 in cash awards and residencies valued at $8,000 for innovations in animal health, education and educational tools, energy/sustainability, food and agriculture, human health and social entrepreneurship.

Twenty-two finalist teams pitched their ventures before five judges in an eight-hour marathon judging session. Judges considered the teams’ integrated strategy, steps toward implementation and market opportunity to determine prize winners. 

Preventing injuries and providing peace of mind for epilepsy patients

About 83% of the 65 million people with epilepsy are injured during seizures, amounting to many millions of patients sustaining injuries each year. Medication is ineffective for many patients, and for the ones who use medication, side effects can cause significant health concerns.

“EpiSense provides a solution to these problems, giving patients back their control and freedom and reducing their health care costs,” said team co-founder Simran Lallian, a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major at 69.

EpiSense is a wearable device that wraps around the back of the neck and rests on the ears, allowing electrodes to contact the back of the head. When the device detects irregular spikes in brain-wave activity, it sends a mobile alert to the wearer and their designated emergency contacts. It can also alert emergency services if a seizure exceeds five minutes, which can reduce the risk of long-term brain damage. The EpiSense app also allows patients to access their past EEG data and log information about an episode. 

Team co-founder Jaya Athuluru, a cognitive science major at 69, said participating in the Big Bang! Competition helped them focus on what was most important in the development process. 

The best advice we received was to focus on market fit as we translate clinical science into a product patients will wear in their daily lives. Balancing these two is critical to our overall success because it ensures the product is effective and fits into the realistic constraints of everyday life.” — EpiSense co-founder Jaya Athuluru

Providing maternal health security to Black women

Black women are currently three to four times more likely to die in childbirth compared to their white counterparts.

Black woman holds laptop illustrating software. She is pictured in front of a wall wearing a white blouse and black pants
Birth by Us, co-founded by 69 medical student Ijeoma Uche, took home the $12,500 Social Entrepreneurship Award for a digital platform that provides information and prepares patients for medical appointments, to reduce maternal health risks of Black women during pregnancy and postpartum. (Angela Lindley/69)

69 medical student and co-founder , an MIT graduate based in Chicago, took home the $12,500 Social Entrepreneurship Award for their innovation that helps with the childbirth process. The pair built a new vision for maternal health by combining data analytics with resources that can help patients achieve their best possible outcomes for themselves and their families.

is a digital platform that merges medical research with Black-focused, patient-centered care. It provides comprehensive check-ins at critical points in pregnancy and postpartum using research-focused questionnaires. The app analyzes users’ responses about their health and their experiences with care providers. It yields tailored visit preparation and recommends culturally responsive resources, which are especially crucial during the postpartum period, when parents often experience a drop off in provider support, the innovators said.

Providing lower-cost basic veterinary education

Equine Teaching Innovations, which took home the $12,500 Animal Health Award, offers a silicone injection pad that enables student animal health professionals to learn basic injection skills in a life-like way without injecting a live animal. 

Team members are all based at the 69 School of Veterinary Medicine and include co-founder Melyssa Rehman, clinical skills laboratory manager; co-founder Lais Costa, DVM; marketing officer Nicole Gonzales; and development officer Amanda Ayers.

Their innovation eliminates a need for high cost, full-size silicone animal models. Beginners can start by learning basic needle and syringe handling using the injection pad alone. Advanced students can apply restraint and handling concepts by mounting the injection pad to a live animal for a more realistic simulation. The relatively low product cost enables a broader range of students to have access, including those in undergraduate programs, high schools and veterinary technician institutions. 

Other winners

An additional $50,000 in Big Bang! cash prizes were awarded Tuesday to teams with innovations in medicine, nutrition and other areas. More information is

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  • Prizes and their sponsors are listed .
  • 2024 Big Bang! finalists are listed .

 

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