The next big medical breakthrough is on the horizon and all it takes is one idea, one vision, or one conversation for a small, emerging biotech to change the way we treat and cure diseases for generations to come. Recognizing the potential and promise of early-stage companies for addressing unmet medical needs, the BIO International Convention will once again host the Innovation Zone on the exhibit floor of the Philadelphia Convention Center, June 4-6.
The Innovation Zone is a partnership between BIO and the National Institutes of Health to feature Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funded early-stage biotech companies. Eighty emerging companies will showcase their cutting-edge technologies, form long-term partnerships, and begin to raise funds in the private sector.
Ahead of Convention, we caught up with Innovation Zone exhibitor Dr. Ellen Frank, Chief Scientific Officer of HealthRhythms, Inc. to learn about his company and their exciting future. See our conversation below.
What is your company’s lead product or technology?
This is like asking a mother of twins which one is her favorite. Our two linked products (kind of like Siamese twins) are a behavior monitoring app, Measure®, and its twin, Cue®, a smartphone-based intervention app for depression and anxiety. Measure® capitalizes on the sensors on any commercial smartphone to unobtrusively capture continuous 24/7, objective data on patient functioning, something we’ve never had before in the field of mental health measurement. Cue® uses this behavioral data to create highly personalized behavior change suggestions to help patients achieve and maintain symptom remission and pushes those suggestions directly to patients through their phones.
How has this SBIR program helped your company grow?
Our SBIR grant gave us the luxury of taking the time to build Cue® in a thoughtful, patient-informed manner by providing the funding for a period of collaborative design in which we engaged patients in using and critiquing an initial prototype. Then we were able to adapt Cue to what patients told us they wanted it to do for them. Finally, it has supported an adequately powered proof of concept RCT in which we are comparing patient monitoring only via Measure® to Measure® plus Cue® over a 16-week protocol. Although the RCT is not yet completed, it definitely looks like Cue® is working to reduce depression severity…and that’s on top of expert pharmacotherapy for depression and anxiety…something rarely seen in the many studies that have tried to show added benefit from a psychosocial intervention combined with medication.
What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?
Of course, we are intensely focused on completing the RCT and understanding not just whether Cue® works to help patients with depression and anxiety, but how. We are also excited that Measure is being deployed in pre- and post-marketing studies of drugs for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to better understand for whom specific medications are working. Our next priority is to validate our measurement and intervention approaches in a broader array of psychiatric and neurologic conditions including alcohol withdrawal-related insomnia, autism, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Our long-term aspiration is to take our solution to all individuals who deal with mental health issues and assist all those involved in their treatment and care.
What do you hope to gain out of your participation at the 2019 BIO International Convention?
BIO is a tropical garden of opportunities for a small start-up like HealthRhythms: opportunities to inform and meet with potential customers, opportunities to learn what other companies in our field are up to, opportunities to find the right kind of investors to take us to our next level of growth as a company. And all this in one place at one time.
Tell us something about your company that investors might not know…
Our secret weapon is the diversity of our team – not your usual start-up bunch. We range in age from over 75 to under 25, we have co-founders with deep, deep clinical and clinical trials experience with the populations we are focusing on but who are on a steep learning curve with respect to the boundless possibilities of technology and we have co-founders with world-class tech expertise who are still learning about the clinical conditions that are our passion. What unites us is our intense curiosity, our desire to continue to learn regardless of our age, and our commitment to making things better for those who suffer from mental and neurological disorders. We truly are on a mission.
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