Celebrating Lifelines Neuro Founders - Dave Hulin & Stephen Walters
As we celebrate our founders this week, we would like to share their stories. The partnership of Dave Hulin and Stephen Walters is driven by a shared philosophy: make something unique that helps people. The result of that philosophy is the company that is today Lifelines Neuro.
20 Years Later: A Revolution in EEG
During an interview last year in their UK office, Dave Hulin, an electronics engineer and Chief Technology Officer and Stephen Walters, neurophysiologist and International Sales Consultant provided some insights. Together they reminisced on their journey in founding Lifelines Ltd. and how it has permanently transformed the landscape of EEG technology.
Dave holds the original flash memory card used in their original Trackit Mk1 ambulatory EEG device circa 2000. It is roughly as long as a greeting card (and about half as wide) and by today’s standards holds a meager 500 megabytes of storage space. Stephen smiles and muses about how a flash memory card the size of a thumbnail can now hold 64 times more memory than their prototype device, and at nearly 1/8th of the cost. Before them lay a collection of other past and present devices they’ve used over the years. The men appear nostalgic looking over what they created.
As an engineer, Dave is a natural problem solver. Applying new technologies to difficult problems is his specialty. When the first iteration of the Trackit was imagined, several goals were benchmarked. There had to be at least 48 hours of recording time, 36 channels, and simultaneous sampling of each of those channels - unlike any other device at the time. It had to be compact and not just produce high-quality recordings, but EEG lab-quality recordings. This was a lofty but not unattainable goal. Thus the idea of the Trackit MK1 would be made manifest thanks to his efforts.
“It’s over-engineered, and a little heavy - but it’s designed to last,” Dave comments thoughtfully as he holds the device in his hand. He appears only a little wistful. He is proud of how far the device has come in its most recent iterations. The shiny red device is brick-shaped and probably similar in weight. Compared to the latest Trackit 4A it seems quaint.
|Stephen Walters and Dave Hulin|
Promotional material for the original Trackit
However, this device revolutionized EEG. Patients could now be recorded as they go about their daily routines at home while maintaining clinical utility for Epilepsy Monitoring Units due to its high-quality capture. This low-cost solution opened up a whole new world in how neurodiagnostics were performed. An epilepsy clinic in Switzerland was among the first to test the device and remarked at the unbelievable lab-quality recordings they now had access to.
“The clinic was answering questions that they haven’t been able to answer before,” Stephen notes. He seems almost still impressed at the revelation, 20 years later. For the device’s weight and size, new things were being discovered that previously were going unnoticed with the lab’s current technology.
“We are a medical company helping people that have a debilitating disease. If we can help them, make their lives easier, make diagnostics quicker and more effective we’ve succeeded,” states Dave.
Stephen nods in agreement. If Dave is the backbone of the company, then Stephen is the face. After creating something they were both proud of, a huge challenge was meeting regulatory requirements, safety requirements for home use, and finally manufacturing at a reasonable cost. Now it was up to Stephen to find people who needed it.
Stephen traveled to America from the United Kingdom to find their first customer abroad. Asked to “guard the only Trackit recorder prototype with his life” by Dave, the suitcase containing it never made its way to the proper luggage carousel. Briefly confronting the idea that the very first Trackit may have been lost, Stephen eventually found it outside. It was about to imminently embark on a trip to a beach in California without its rightful owner. Narrowly avoiding calamity and prototype now in hand, Stephen managed to secure a deal with Nihon Kohden America that marked a milestone in the success and growth of Lifelines Ltd.
It was after this Stephen met an old acquaintance of his at a German Medica medical device conference, Simon Griffin and shared his vision for the product.. Simon went on to found the U.S. distributor, Lifelines Neurodiagnostic Systems, Inc., which became the largest source of sales. You can read more about his story here.
Since those early days, Lifelines Neuro has developed devices for sleep studies, portable EEG systems, recording/review software, and one of the first LED photic stimulation devices to get FDA approval. Both Walters and Hulin were honored to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation from Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II in 2006 for their Trackit EEG amplifier. The first 20 years of this company were by no means simple, but we’re proud to have the talents of these spirited individuals as we continue to grow.
Here’s to another 20 years (and more) with the hope of improving the world with our technology and services. Both Dave and Stephen are already looking ahead to new challenges as we develop the next generation of our in-home EEG system and expand into new international markets and OEM partnerships.