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This article was published 4/3/2020 (815 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Dawson Reimer, the CEO of Cerebra Health Inc., says the Winnipeg digital health company is the world leader in measuring the digital metrics of sleep, it does not sound like he’s bragging. It sounds more like he’s honoured.
The company was founded in 2017 to commercialize technology that was developed by Dr. Magdy Younes, the University of Manitoba professor emeritus whose research in respirology, critical care medicine and sleep medicine has appeared in countless important academic publications.
Dr. Younes’s invention of the proportional assist ventilation earned the U of M more royalty revenues than any other intellectual property produced there for the past few decades.
In 2017, Cerebra acquired a company Younes had established around some novel software algorithms that measure brain activity in sleep.
Since then, Cerebra has developed a hardware and software platform that may very well revolutionize sleep study and fundamentally change the way we think about sleep.
Its easy-to-use sleep study hardware is much less onerous than a conventional at-home sleep apnea apparatus and costs about the same for users. Whereas standard sleep studies effectively just monitor breathing levels during sleep to detect sleep apnea, Cerebra’s technology produces a detailed sleep study report.
The company has just released a new product — called Sleep — which is a two-night assessment of the user’s sleep profile, sleep sensitivity, night-to-night patterns and insights into the underlying causes of their sleeping issues.
"You can wait an extended period of time for a visit to a sleep lab, or choose an at-home option. Typically those studies are only focused on the respiratory side sleep apnea, with little or no attention paid to sleep itself," Reimer said. "Even when the patient goes to the sleep lab, the methods used to assess sleep are outdated and do not reflect the real dynamics of sleep."
Cerebra is embarking on the next stage of development as a company as it begins a more concerted effort to broaden distribution and, according to Reimer and Cerebra’s executive chair Earl Gardiner, generally raising awareness of their amazing tool that can detect and detail all the nuances and intricacies of sleep, not to mention the vital effect it has on health and well being.
"The ability to produce an objective measurement of sleep is fundamentally our core differentiation," Reimer said. "We are the world leaders in that."
Reimer likes to reference the kind of reports that the DNA company 23andMe produces as an example of the kind of rich data Cerebra studies will produce.
The company has raised more than $7 million over the past couple of years mostly through the province’s small business venture capital tax credit and generated more than $1 million in revenue during the 2019 calendar year, mostly from one-off sales and sales to companies developing other technologies that required sleep data as part of those third party development projects.
Cerebra is now looking to partner with larger groups like insurance companies and benefits providers to introduce its technology that it believes fits into the health and well being platforms. For instance the Reh-Fit Centre will start asking its members about their sleep health and will refer people to Cerebra.
Gardiner, who is also the executive chairman and founder of RANA (which recently re-branded as Careica Health), a respiratory care company with locations throughout Western Canada. He said the potential applications for Cerebra’s technology are currently only scratching the surface.
"Based on what we have got and where the world is at with sleep... we have to figure out ways to introduce it," he said. "One of the opportunities is with employers who are starting to understand that sleep impacts performance. We want people to get engaged and educated about their sleep so they can begin to understand why it is important and to have it assessed."
Earlier this year, Cerebra partnered with Rubicon Pharmacies, operators of more than 100 pharmacies across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba under a number of different brand banners. It is the beginning of an aggressive outreach that Cerebra is embarking on.
Jaynaya Mann, an official with Rubicon, is excited about giving Rubicon’s pharmacists the Cerebra tool. She said people come in suffering from all sorts of sleep issues. It is too early to tell what the takeup is at Rubicon’s pharmacies, but she believes it will be a great tool to help people figure out what is preventing people from getting a good solid night of sleep.
"It is a very common complaint," she said. "Sometimes people suspect what is causing sleep disorders but don’t know what it is and the wait to get into a sleep study can be really long... and Cerebra does an awesome job of supporting its customers."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.