News Release 

Novela Neurotech announces online platform for open neurodata support

As INCF endorses Neurodata Without Borders 2.0 (NWB2.0) as a global data standard for neurophysiological data, Novela unveils strategy for open, collaborative data support

Novela Neurotech

San Francisco, CA - Novela Neurotech, in collaboration with CenteR for Advancing Neurotechnological Innovation to Application (CRANIA), recently announced an online, sharable central depository for neural data collected from their wireless, open-source neuromodulation kit, the OpenKit.

The digital library consolidates neural data gathered with the OpenKit, a state-of-the-art wireless neural interface for the brain, in the Neurodata Without Borders 2.0 format. These neural recordings are labeled, organized and provided freely to the academic research community for further mining. The website, OpenBrain.ca, is due to officially launch to a public audience in October of 2020.

"We strongly believe that building a platform to pool data from numerous research groups will massively accelerate our understanding of the brain. The OpenBrain project, along with our open-source electrophysiology kit, OpenKit, offer a simple, user-friendly means for neuromodulation researchers to collect and share their data in a collaborative effort to develop novel treatments of neurological disorders," says Ray Iskander, CEO of Novela Neurotech.

Big data precedes big insights

Neuroscience is entering the big data era. With the launch of mega-collaborative projects including the U.S.'s BRAIN Initiative, the E.U.'s Human Brain Project, the primate brain imaging consortium PRIME-DE, and international initiatives such as the International Brain Initiative, scientists are increasingly realizing that collaboration is critical in deciphering human brain functions.

The idea is simple: rather than each laboratory working individually, consortiums that pool data together enable large-scale collaboration and data mining that is previously untenable for neuroscientific discovery.

A critical ingredient for globe-spanning collaborations is open data sharing. Neuroscientific data, such as electrical recordings of animal or human brain functions in health and disease, are difficult to obtain, standardize and label for consistency. Currently, many systems rely on legacy technologies that may not take important factors such as meta-data into account. Meta-data catalogues important information that allows one lab to understand the experimental conditions and results of another.

A central depository of standardized neural recording data, complete with experimental conditions, labels, and other meta-data, open to the public, would enable researchers to easily download to support their own projects working with electrical brain signals.

A notable previous example for such acceleration of neuroscience research is the Allen Institute for Brain Science's brain atlases, which has standardized positioning in the brain for neuroscience laboratories around the world, enabling simple data interpretation between laboratories.

The OpenBrain platform was conceptualized along similar lines. The platform congregates neural recordings from animal models of various disorders, such as epilepsy, depression and opioid addiction, while standardizing meta-data. These data, gathered using the OpenKit neural interface, will not only inform future iterations of the interface hardware development, but also contribute to an open science movement in the world.

According to Novela's collaborator Dr. Peter Carlen, an epilepsy expert at the Krembil Research Institute, the depository may further inform neurostimulation targets in the brain for various neurological disorders that are difficult to treat with medical drugs such as refractory epilepsy.

"Correcting faulty brain signals with electrical stimulation is very difficult and requires a library of clean data. The OpenKit system already permits acquisition of high quality signals at high frequencies for many days to weeks at a very reasonable cost. The Openbrain.ca depository will further simplify data sharing and access. We see our collaboration as an excellent opportunity to advance ongoing studies of the fundamental mechanisms of epilepsy," says Dr. Carlen.

All neural recordings from the OpenKit will be in the Neurodata Without Borders 2.0 (NWB2.0) format, which is championed by leading neuroscience institutions including the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Kavli Foundation and INCF. On April 3rd, 2020, INCF formally endorsed NWB2.0 as an international standard for neurophysiological data. Novela has been a leading commercial company to support the movement, championing the NWB2.0 format in a collaboration with Loren Frank, PhD, at the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco and HHMI.

"The brain is an enormously complex organ. To truly understand the neurobiological workings that support cognition, emotion and creativity, as well as relieve the staggering global burden of disability from neurological and psychiatric disorders, we need to have a way to adequately share data to enable collaboration. We are very happy to work with Novela Neurotech and the Neurodata Without Borders alliance to reduce data silos in neuroscience, and in turn, promote better understanding of the brain and its massive computational and storage capacities," says Dr. Frank.

"Our end goal is to help patients with difficult neurological disorders who currently don't have sufficient relief. Thanks to the power of AI and human neuroscientific minds, we are at an inflection point for making this possible. The central enabler is data, and with OpenBrain.ca, we are hoping to provide the big data necessary to take this leap," says Iskander.

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OpenBrain.ca is currently in development and set to officially launch in October of 2020. For more information on how to get involved, please contact Novela at shelly.fan@novelaneuro.com

About Novela Neurotech

Novela Neurotech, based in Alameda, CA, is on the forefront of accelerating brain stimulation research. Spun off from Waterloo University in Canada, Novela is developing a full brain signal data platform Neureka, which includes a smart hardware neural interface and a cloud-based software analysis suite, to aid researchers in developing new treatments. More at https://novelaneuro.com

About CRANIA

CRANIA is a world-class center for R&D, application and commercialization of neuromodulation innovations and interventions, championed by the University Health Network (UHN), Canada's largest research hospital, and the University of Toronto, a world-leading institution of higher learning and breakthrough research. More at: https://crania.ca

About Krembil Research Institute (KRI)

KRI is the research arm of Toronto Western hospital, focusing on three program areas including brain and spine disorders, bone and joint disorders and eye disorders. More at: https://www.uhn.ca/Research/Research_Institutes/Krembil

About HHMI

HHMI is a non-profit scientific research organization with the mission to advance basic biomedical research and science education for the benefit of humanity. More at: https://hhmi.org

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