How do you detect a life crippling condition up to 20 years before the symptoms are evident? Biotech leaders ViewMind have developed a solution that could save or improve millions of lives using cutting edge technology in an immersive diagnosis, for precision neurocognitive health assessment.
ViewMind – a biotech innovator – has been seeking to solve Bill Gates’ call to arms since 2003. Their work is not only revolutionary from a technological point of view, but the solutions they have been able to create have been clinically validated, their medical devices are already approved in several regions including Europe and they are partnering with tier one pharmaceutical organisations to aid physicians around the world in their work.
The primary area of focus for ViewMind is to accurately predict Alzheimer’s syndrome for individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and also in the pre-symptomatic stage up to two decades before clinical symptoms develop, enabling the patient to receive treatment far earlier than has previously been possible.
The solution combines a non-invasive virtual reality eye tracking headset with ViewMind’s artificial intelligence (AI) application to identify minor alterations in the way that a patient’s eyes behave under certain visual stimuli processing. These oculomotor patterns are analysed by the software and allow the detection of pathologies with high precision.
The scale of the problem is terrifying
There are far too many people who suffer from neurocognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s. Over 40 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s and in the USA it is the sixth leading cause of mortality in the over 65s.
According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease is the 7th leading cause of death globally and with twice the number of women affected compared to men.
Part of the challenge with conditions such as Alzheimer’s is that currently, treatments and testing just haven’t evolved over time. The most common form of testing is through either a lumbar puncture, a brain scan or a PET scan. Unfortunately, these test are invasive and expensive. Other tests include pen and paper neurocognitive assessments, which are subjective, less acute and can vary from day to day. Furthermore, these tests typically only take place once the patient has obvious symptoms – meaning the disease may be too far advanced and treatment is unlikely to have a significant impact. The Alzheimer’s pathology begins some 20 years before clinical symptoms.
“It’s hard to overstate how important finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic is for stopping Alzheimer’s.” – Bill Gates
The pharmaceutical industry has found itself in a tricky position when trying to develop treatments. New therapies can only be taken to market after going through extensive clinical trials. These trials require patients who are early enough in the Alzheimer’s pathology that a potential treatment can still have a positive and measureable impact. Current methods of detection simply are not capable of identifying the disease early and accurately enough for these clinical trials to yield the kind of results everyone wants to see.
Breakthrough technology driven by passion and innovation
ViewMind’s approach combines both complex AI with beautifully simple user interaction, meaning medical professionals can gain a level of insight into a patient’s condition but without any sort of risk or pain for the patient.
The patient goes through a 15 minute process that requires them to wear a VR headset and then work through a series of visual exercises. Each exercise activates a different part of the brain and requires the patient to move their eyes in specific natural ways. This provides up to 100,000 data points that are uploaded into the AI intelligent algorithm, which then analyses and interprets the results into a series of reports and a pre-diagnosis for a doctor to interpret.
ViewMind’s digital biomarker approach is currently the only solution in the market that can detect predict Alzheimer’s at such an early stage, and also has application for other neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
Crucially, ViewMind’s approach has been thoroughly validated and received regulatory approval. Multiple clinical trials have been successfully completed with over 2,000 participants taking part. In one such trial, 63 participants were studied over 42 months with a specific focus on ViewMind’s ability to predict the conversion from MCI patients to Alzheimer’s disease Syndrome and ViewMind’s approach had a prediction accuracy rate of 94% with no false negatives.
Compelling value proposition
This level of accuracy, combined with the speed and efficiency of the methodology, has made ViewMind’s approach a compelling option. With the costs of drug development increasing and success rates remaining relatively low, diagnostic solutions such as ViewMind’s are becoming very attractive.
It’s no surprise therefore that regulatory bodies are embracing the use of digital biomarker solutions. In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration has rewritten its guidelines to support the use of software as a medical device and streamlined the regulatory process. With this crucial collaboration between innovators like ViewMind’s, pharmaceutical partners and regulators, effective treatments are delivered to patients quicker than ever before.
From a commercial point of view, by being able to have a positive impact at both ends of the value chain, ViewMind’s solution is perfectly positioned to deliver substantial financial growth for the business.
Well placed for future requirements and collaboration
As has already been alluded to, the diagnostic space is evolving – partly in order to better serve patients but primarily the change is driven by innovators who are able to use cutting edge technology to solve problems that previously have been beyond the industry’s ability to solve.
One of the most exciting aspects of ViewMind’s approach is that whilst it currently focuses on Alzheimer’s and MCI, the underlying premise and technology can be applied to so many other valuable areas of therapeutic study. The use of digital biomarkers has applications with numerous other conditions and at several stages within the drug development and patient journey.
As so many areas of peoples’ lives are being positively impacted by technology, patients are expecting the medical world to keep up, if not lead the way. But in a sector that is highly regulated and relatively slow moving, many tech innovators have struggled to gain traction. ViewMind’s use of digital biomarkers and the non-invasive, cost-effective methodology, and accuracy is exciting as it can complement so many aspects of the broader diagnostic process.
But is it better to know about a condition for which there is no cure?
It can be easy to get carried away with all the positives of approaches such as ViewMind’s and the benefits they bring. However, for some people there will be a heartfelt question about whether it is in fact better not to know what awaits them – especially considering that currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
It’s a point that must be respected. It is worth noting though that whilst there is no cure currently, there are several important benefits to early detection. For example there is powerful evidence that if you do have a chance of developing Alzheimer’s, then early detection will enable you to focus on treating comorbidities such as diabetes and loss of hearing that are quite often associated with the condition itself.
Based on the results of large cohort studies, the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, intervention and care concluded that up to 35% of dementia cases could be prevented. By taking preventative action against modifying risk factors, a patient may be able to avoid Alzheimer’s altogether or at least slow down its onset. Not only does this provide a longer period of time when the patient has a higher quality of life, but it also provides valuable time for other treatments to be discovered, tested and made available.
An exciting future beckons
The team at ViewMind are already very proud of what they have been able to achieve but their ambition to help patients and to grow their business is certainly not satisfied yet.
Operations are expanding globally and the company are keen to collaborate with relevant partners to help support doctors and patients around the world. A healthy pipeline of opportunities and new services already exists including a focus on the neurological impact of long COVID, which is of obvious immediate relevance.
As Frost & Sullivan recently pointed out when they awarded ViewMind their 2021 Global Enabling Technology Leadership award, the organisation is poised for massive commercial success.
For further details on ViewMind and its innovative plans, please visit the company website – https://www.viewmind.com/