Battelle, a non-profit R&D company, and Spark Biomedical are collaborating on the development of a non-invasive device to tackle the harmful effects of Acute Stress Reactions (ASR). The partnership is part of a $1.15 million Phase II grant awarded to Spark Biomedical.

The device, Sparrow Hawk, uses Transcutaneous Auricular Neurostimulation (tAN) to prevent or mitigate ASRs in combat settings. In harsh or stressful environments, ASRs impair cognitive function, jeopardizing mission success and potentially endangering the health and safety of military personnel. Long-term exposure to ASRs can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a higher risk of suicide.

Current treatment methods for the military are limited as providing prompt access to trained personnel is not always possible in combat or frontline settings. Sparrow Hawk’s low-profile, wearable form factor allows for use in far-forward settings.

“We’re excited to begin this important work with Spark that has the potential to do so much good for so many people,” said Michael Darrow, a senior biomedical engineer for Battelle’s Medical Device Solutions group which specifically focuses on neuromodulation. “Once our engineers have developed a functioning device, we can then test it in a clinical setting at Battelle to evaluate its performance in a clinical model of carefully constructed laboratory stress.”

In Phase I of the collaboration, Battelle conducted interviews with combat medics to help develop critical benchmarks and performance parameters for a wearable device.

During Phase II, Battelle’s medical device development team will leverage their experience in advanced materials, data science, and engineering to partner with Spark on the development of a functional Sparrow Hawk device for use in clinical trials. The clinical trials will evaluate the efficacy of the device in restoring cognitive performance in a clinical environment designed to simulate the stress of the battlefield.

“Our strong partnership with Battelle has allowed us to further advance Spark’s wearable neurostimulation device, Sparrow Hawk, and ultimately expand our clinical indications to military and civilian Acute Stress Reaction,” said Dr. Navid Khodaparast, Chief Science Officer at Spark Biomedical. “Following this project, we intend to launch a larger clinical trial examining the effects of tAN therapy in those suffering from trauma-induced ASR.”