Alexa, open Ella the Jellyfish: Eisai creates Amazon skill for kids with rare epilepsy

Ella the Jellyfish is a new Amazon Alexa skill, but she’s not just any sea creature program. Ella is the star of Eisai’s voice-enabled play and meditation skill just for children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and their families.

The new skill, Eisai’s first for Alexa, launched this week and can sing, play games, tell stories and offer guided meditations.

The concept began with Eisai employees who regularly spend time with LGS patients and their families. The employees realized the limits of play for children with the rare epilepsy and the need for a different kind of entertainment and fun.

“Given some of the cognitive and physical limitations these children have, we wanted something that was super easy to interact with. That’s where the new technology of Alexa voice skills piqued our interest,” said Alex Scott, chief strategy officer of Eisai’s neurology business group.

The stories and meditations in the Ella skill can engage and relax children but can also give parents and caregivers some downtime while their young charges are occupied. About 48,000 people in the U.S. have LGS.

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The goal of the beyond-the-pill effort is to help LGS families experience things other families enjoy. For instance, Scott said, typical family game night activities can be difficult for children with LGS.

“With Ella the Jellyfish we believe we’re helping create this environment where families can do things with their children that are appropriate for them,” Scott said.

Eisai is encouraged by the "overwhelmingly positive" feedback from families who were involved in creating the skill, along with advocacy organizations, and was pleased with its experience working with Amazon. In fact, Eisai already has several other Alexa skills in development, Scott said.

The company plans to work with advocacy groups to spread the word about Ella. A dedicated website offers more information about downloading and using the skill as well as several videos featuring families talking about the skill and using it. 

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Eisai makes antiepileptic med Fycompa, which is approved to treat seizures for patients with epilepsy in multiple indications and is currently in a phase 3 clinical study for patients with seizures associated with LGS. 

Having worked with the LGS community for more than a decade, Scott said, the Eisai team is excited “to be able to give back something that is hopefully helpful and enjoyable and brings fun into a world that has a lot of challenges.”