Will a market of hundreds of millions be able to access these needed technologies?
Neurotrack, a computer-based cognitive program designed to pick up changes three to six years in advance of an official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, gained Series A funding led by Founders’ Fund (Peter Thiel) and joined by Social+Capital Partnership plus several angel investors. Developed initially at Emory University with the technology part of a five year National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, it tests subjects on preference for repeat images versus novel images; a preference for repeat images may indicate a disturbance in the hippocampus area of the brain in completely asymptomatic subjects. However, you will not find it at a doctor’s office or a pharmacy kiosk near you soon. Its initial use will be in clinical trials for pharma companies developing drugs targeting early-stage dementias. The meaning for telehealth and telecare could be as narrow as assistive mobile devices and apps for the individual and in-home monitoring systems, as wide as brain training programs to help the brain compensate earlier than ever or diet/exercise app/social programs to stave off the onset of cognitive loss. The Palo Alto, California-based company was in the summer 2012 Rock Health class and won the “Best Company” award in the SXSW Digital Health competition. MedCityNews, Neurotrack release, TechCrunch
Recently in TTA: An Alzheimer’s diagnosis test that could have profound telecare implications on Cognoptix, which monitors both eye movement and beta-amyloid proteins in the lens, with a similar business model.
Editor’s note: I was a caregiver for my mother 1999-2003 who had a stroke–smack in the hippocampus, which transformed her from a feisty woman who ran a household and my brother’s medical practice to someone very childlike, and was the beginning of a long and dramatic cognitive decline. But prior to this, there were signs; my brother (a physician) and I would have appreciated the time to prepare for this change and possibly stave off the catastrophic stroke by guarding her physical condition. I personally am unhappy that the initial, primary use of both Neurotrack and Cognoptix will be with pharmaceutical companies developing drugs to mitigate or arrest early stage dementia. While this is great for the business plan plus the investors, and drug research is to be applauded, R&D and FDA trials of these drugs will take the better part of a decade. What about neurologists, psychiatrists and family members who are seeking early warning and diagnosis–and those who are willing to pay? There is a market of millions–50+ adults are 100 million in the US and 20 million in the UK alone–and more millions of their family members who need early, non-invasive testing/diagnosis, if only for planning, and will find it out of reach. Can the developers of these technologies consider a dual path that maintains clinical integrity and their corporate fisc?