Linus Health debuts AI-powered early Alzheimer's screening platform

Named for Charlie Brown’s blanket-toting best friend, Linus Health is aiming to become a trusted partner in early screening for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And, true to its name, the Boston-based company may soon be a physician’s best friend, with the recent launch of its digital platform for cognitive testing.

Installed on an iPad, the platform offers both a cognitive assessment and patient questionnaire, then analyzes their results to assess each patient’s current cognitive abilities and future risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. If necessary, physicians can then use those findings to begin early or preventive treatment for dementia—with recommendations and guidance provided by the platform as well.

The platform is now available to healthcare providers in the U.S., Linus announced this week, potentially bringing “specialist-level insights into primary care in a whole new way,” CEO David Bates, Ph.D., said in a statement.

“To make it feasible for more brain care to occur in primary care, we need to empower PCPs with both efficient assessments and actionable guidance,” added Alvaro Pascual-Leone, M.D., Ph.D., Linus’ chief medical officer. “Our platform enables them to screen for, identify and act on cognitive issues early—and without the complexity they face today.”

Linus’ brain health screening software includes the Core Cognitive Evaluation, anchored by the company’s DCTclock test. While the traditional clock test for dementia asks patients to draw an analog clock from memory using pen and paper, then assesses the results, Linus’ version brings in artificial intelligence to analyze the entire process of drawing the clock—not just the final picture—using a digital pen or stylus on an iPad.

DCTclock, which was named one of Time magazine’s 100 best inventions of 2021, has been proven in clinical studies to successfully detect early signs of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One study published last year showed that the results of the digital test had significant correlation with the findings of PET imaging scans for amyloid plaque build-ups in the brain—a widely used indicator of Alzheimer’s—and also outperformed the standard 30-minute battery of pen-and-paper cognitive tests in doing so.

Meanwhile, another pair of 2021 studies confirmed that DCTclock was better able to spot signs of Parkinson’s in symptomless patients than traditional screening methods and can even distinguish between different cognitive phenotypes of the disease.

Between the testing and the accompanying questionnaire, the entire screening process takes less than 10 minutes, according to Linus.

The U.S. launch of the platform comes shortly after Linus’ technology was selected by more than half of the seven sites involved in a pilot project launched by the Davos Alzheimer’s Collective to test new high-tech screening tools for cognitive health.

It also follows the close of a series B funding round that brought in $55 million for Linus. At the time, the company said it would use the venture capital to help expand both the platform and its workforce. In its latest step of that expansion plan, Linus acquired Kinesis Health Technologies earlier this year, giving Linus the chance to add physical function assessment tech to its digital screening platform.