AI startup Mindstrong bags $14M for mental health mission

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Mindstrong holds three patents for technology that transforms patterns of smartphone use into "digital biomarkers" for mental health.

Mindstrong Health wants to transform mental healthcare by creating objective measures for it, like those used in other disease areas. To that end, the startup has raised $14 million in its Series A, which it will use to build out its technology and clinical operations teams.

“Every other discipline, be it the heart, pancreas or lungs, has objective, reproducible ways to measure the function of those organs,” said Mindstrong CEO and cofounder Paul Dagum. But mental health disorders are assessed through subjective, patient-reported or clinician-reported measures, he said.

Founded in 2014, Mindstrong has developed technology that can shed light on a patient’s state of mind by analyzing the way he or she uses a smartphone. The tech digests patterns of interaction with a device--which words are used or where and when calls are made, for example—and turns them into objective measures of brain function, dubbed digital biomarkers, according to a statement.

Mindstrong’s tech collects data passively and continuously, the company said, which allows the day-to-day monitoring of patients with neuropsychological and neurodegenerative conditions without being intrusive.

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“What excites me about Mindstrong is the transformation of an individual’s patterns of typing or scrolling on a smartphone into precise measures of cognitive function,” said Dr. Tom Insel, who left his post at Verily to cofound Mindstrong. “This new, powerful approach to assessment serves as the foundation for developing better interventions to improve mental health care. Mental disorders are global health problems. With smartphones we have a potential global solution.”

While the company has had “some pretty profound findings” in multiple large clinical studies, Dagum declined to provide details. But the studies found that the results were “highly reproducible” and “very predictive,” he said. Eventually, the technology could be used for the early detection of relapse and avoiding costly hospitalizations.

ForeSite Capital and ARCH Venture Partners led the round, while Optum Ventures, Berggruen Holdings and One Mind Brain Health Impact Fund also participated. Specifically, the proceeds will boost the company’s artificial intelligence and engineering personnel and scale up its ability to process data. Mindstrong will also build its clinical operations team, which will work with industry partners on large-scale clinical trials, Dagum said.