Sidebar 1: Promising Brain Capital Start-Ups
Pear Therapeutics builds prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs) to provide better outcomes for patients, smarter engagement and tracking tools for clinicians, and cost-effective solutions for payers. Pear’s lead product, reSET, for the treatment of substance use disorder, was the first PDT to receive market authorization from the FDA to treat disease. Pear’s second product, reSET-O, for the treatment of opioid use disorder, was the first PDT to receive Breakthrough Designation. Pear’s third product Somryst® for the treatment of chronic insomnia, was the first PDT submitted through the FDA’s traditional 510(k) pathway while simultaneously reviewed through FDA’s Software Precertification Pilot Program.
TALi is a digital health company aiming to help children reach their full potential by providing engaging training software clinically proven to improve core cognitive performance. Hence, this has value in education and mental health fields. TALi has been developed and validated through a series of pilot studies including randomized controlled trials for acquired brain injury (ABI) and attention in primary school classrooms.
Akili Interactive builds clinically validated cognitive therapeutics, assessments, and diagnostics that look and feel like video games. The company built EndeavorRx, a prescription digital therapeutic video game to help children aged 8 to 12 with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the first game-based therapeutic to get FDA approval. This company has an impact in the mental health, neuroscience, and education realms. Akili has recently entered into a strategic licensing agreement with TALi to extend its offerings for early childhood attention impairments.
The “Cranky Uncle” game can be employed to improve brain function and teach individuals about logical fallacies and critical thinking in the context of climate change. In the game, players must identify the form of science denialism that matches the possible arguments of a climate denialist, such as “How can models predict climate 100 years out when they can’t get the forecast right next week?” and “Climate models are imperfect so they can’t be trusted.” Overcoming cognitive biases and improving brain function will be key to equipping us to prevent climate change, which conversely will help prevent significant harm to brain health.
Happify Health is a health care platform that combines prescription digital therapeutics (PDTx) and care delivery solutions to improve mental and physical health. Happify Health’s first prescription PDTx called Ensemble focuses on treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Mobio Interactive has developed digital theragnostics, personalized with objective and scalable biomarkers, to prevent, measure, and treat mental illness.They use facial photoplethysmography (PPG) software and deep neural networks to personalize safe and effective gamified "measure-treat-measure" system has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of mental illness in cancer patients, as well as alleviate anxiety in young adults.
LUCID are producing real-world applications to establish music as medicine.They have curated and created therapeutic music using biometrics and AI for people looking to reduce stress and anxiety, increase focus, and unlock their full potential.They are also exploring their capabilities in the dementia space.
Extended Reality Therapies
Charisma is a flexible virtual platform combined with live, interactive cognitive coaching to enhance how individuals think, interact, and thrive socially. It has relevance and data for anxiety disorders, as well as social and emotional intelligence.
Smileyscope is a virtual reality digital therapeutic for pain and anxiety. Through patented, targeted techniques, its VR experiences have been shown to reduce pain up to 60%, anxiety up to 40%, and need for restraints by 48% in parallel randomized controlled trials. This company has an impact in mental health, education, and neuroscience.
FloreoVR is leveraging the power of VR to provide a method of teaching social, behavioral, communication, and life skills for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related diagnoses. FloreoVR has gone through a usability and initial feasibility pilot study that supports the technology’s ability to improve fundamental joint attention skills in ASD.
Artificial Intelligence-Based Technologies
Stroke affective computing technology built by researchers at Penn State and Houston Methodist leverages machine learning to aid in the diagnosis of strokes using a smartphone to detect abnormalities in speech and face muscle movements. The app aims to enable caregivers and patients to detect the stroke earlier, enabling better options for the patient. The technology was developed and validated from a dataset of 80 patients having stroke symptoms at Houston Methodist, and it achieved 79% accuracy
Muse has developed an electroencephalogram headband that detects brain signals and applies machine learning algorithms to provide insights into attention levels, meditation, and sleep. This has applications in neurology and neuroscience.
Digital Mental Health Care Platforms
Real is redesigning the mental health therapy experience. It makes evidence-based group therapy available on-demand. Real’s digital platforms allow users access to different therapy pathways, group therapy sessions, journal prompts, and other resources available anytime at their fingertips.
Brain-Computer Interface Technologies
Synchron is developing a platform of brain interface technology that transmits data in and out of the brain via devices implanted inside cerebral blood vessels using minimally invasive endovascular procedures. Synchron’s flagship product, the Stentrode™, is a minimally invasive brain-computer interface that serves as a motor neuroprosthesis for the treatment of paralysis. It is designed to circumvent the dysfunctional neural pathway to convert attempts to move to control digital devices. A first-in-human clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Strentrode to improve functional independence for individuals with paralysis.
Neuralink develops ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. Neuralink is currently going through extensive studies with the aim to create the future of brain interfaces by building devices that help individuals with paralysis and inventing new technologies that will expand people’s abilities and the larger community and world.
Innovative Education Startups
Blinkist is an online learning and education platform that delivers non-fiction, author-driven content by turning bestselling books into bite-sized audio and reading content. By distilling the essence of world literature into 15-minute “Blinks,” the company is adapting to today’s fast-paced society with seamless integration of learning opportunities into everyday life.
Tomorrow’s Education is redesigning higher education by delivering personalized, flexible, and remote-first online degrees in entrepreneurship, sustainability, and technology. Students are mentored by real-world experts and industry leaders, and receive tailored curricula with a focus on creating a more sustainable society.
Patient Reported Outcomes Tools
BiAffect is utilizing keystroke behavior to predict episodes of bipolar disorder. The technology tracks smartphone keystrokes and extracts patterns that can impact mood, thereby predicting mood changes and mood risk.
Blueprint is moving traditional in-office, paper patient reported outcome scales to the patient’s smartphone with the ability to track mood over time and deliver directly to the patient’s provider.