FounderS: FABIAN LABRA SPRÖHNLE, ISIDORA LABRA ODDE, MYRIAM ODDE CATTAN
What products, services, solutions or technology have you developed?
Noologica is an open source and open science biotech startup developing a digital solution for the precise screening, triaging, diagnosis, and monitoring of neurodivergent and mental health conditions.
Solutions we are developing include:
- A digital and customised version of the game ‘Battleships’ which is used as a screening and diagnostic tool.
- Image and data processing algorithms.
- Machine learning models trained with testing datasets.
These tools are designed to support mental health workers and clinicians in their clinical workflow. This has direct impacts for consumers who often have to wait long periods for diagnoses. We aim to provide tools that cut down on several hours of professional time and give precise and objective measures with the ability to assess a range of mental health conditions.
WHAT KEY CUSTOMER PROBLEMS OR CUSTOMER “WANTS” DOES YOUR SOLUTION SOLVE?
- Screening and diagnosis of mental health conditions is time consuming and there is a long patient waitlist. We are developing a low-cost digital solution that has the potential to reduce the several hours of professional time needed to diagnose an individual. Our current test time is 30-45 minutes.
- Diagnoses using performance-based tests lack precision: Our preliminary research is showing very high levels of sensitivity and specificity with greater than 80% accuracy.
- No objective tests exist to assess a range of neurodivergent and mental health conditions: Our tool uses objective measures and aims to distinguish between different neurodivergent and mental health conditions (differential diagnosis).
Who and where are your target customers?
This technology would be used by clinicians and health workers in their clinical workflow. Ultimately, the end user is the health consumer who would interact with the tool. Initially clinical trials have focused on children, and we are hoping to expand this to adults so that our technology is applicable to all age groups.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
The business was born out of the research conducted by Dr.Fabian Labra Spröhnle in the area of child psychopathology. Fabian and the research team developed a new clinical method that combined mathematics and predictive modelling to describe and analyse Executive Functions (EF) patterns from thought processes.
EF are goal-directed and anticipatory capabilities that control human behaviour and mental activities. EF disorders are the most common features associated with mental health conditions in children. These measures can be collected from an inference task, using a customised and digital version of the board-game ‘Battleships’. This breakthrough finding led to further work directed towards translational research. From this subsequent research it was always our intention to create a usable product in the mental health space.
Furthermore, due to the promising results we have seen in our clinical trials the scope of the product and business has grown from focusing on diagnosing conditions to looking at screening, triaging and monitoring.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
- The research team and the support we have gotten from our local and overseas collaborators.
- Our commitment to sharing knowledge and making it accessible through an ‘open science’ model.
- Our resilience and ability to push through multiple setbacks as independent researchers outside of traditional academia, as well as our persistence in a complex healthcare ecosystem.
The Noologica team
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
- At this stage we market our business carefully as we are still in the clinical validation phase. We are focused on expanding our clinical trials and datasets to produce accurate and powerful models that are ready to be used in clinical workflows. We market our business as a startup with the ‘open source’ and ‘open science’ model, this means we are open to collaborating and sharing our technology with other researchers to continuously improve.
- Our advice? As a biotech startup it is easy to get excited with the potential impact the product or service can have, but when marketing a biotech business/product one should be honest about where it is at.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
- Moving away from traditional academia to become an independent research provider.
- Progressing clinical trials given the current strain on the health system, particularly following the pandemic.
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
- Developing a business in the biotech space can be a long and complex road but don’t let this deter you from pushing forward, even if it means creating new roads.
- Be honest about what you are developing/offering and how this will impact your customers. In the biotech world you are often working with products/services that affect the health and wellbeing of people so make sure that your business makes ethics a priority and doesn’t promise what it cannot deliver.
- It’s ok to slow down sometimes and make sure you have thought properly about the different investment, collaboration or product opportunities.
Story created in partnership with Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA).