Jan Samzelius, CEO of Brainnovations Winner NeuraMetrix, encourages pioneers to focus on “simple, elegant solutions to big problems”

What sur­prised you the most from the Judges’ ques­tions and feed­back dur­ing the Brain­no­va­tions Pitch Con­test last month?

Even with only a brief pre­sen­ta­tion the judges imme­di­ate­ly got the poten­tial impact of our tech­nol­o­gy to mea­sure and mon­i­tor brain health and began to think about oth­er appli­ca­tions for us – sev­er­al we had not thought about. That was fun.

In a nut­shell, what is the core idea behind Neu­raMetrix?

Typ­ing Cadence is among the strongest habit we have. If the brain is attacked by a dis­ease, the habit will begin to break – very slow­ly and in very small incre­ments. Our way of mea­sur­ing is so sen­si­tive that we can pick up changes at the lev­el of 1/100th of sec­ond – many orders of mag­ni­tude bet­ter than today’s tools.

When and how did the idea come to you?

Com­ing from data secu­ri­ty, our first idea was to use typ­ing cadence for authen­ti­ca­tion, and then were alert­ed to the brain health appli­ca­tion by an out­sider. When Bob Mahley (founder of the Glad­stone Insti­tute, and its pres­i­dent for 30 years) told me ‘you real­ize we have been look­ing for this for 30 years’, we were pret­ty sure that we had a win­ner and imme­di­ate­ly pivoted.

What’s your vision for Brain Health in 2025 and how do you envi­sion Neu­raMetrix as part of it?

Many sci­en­tists we work with empha­size how lit­tle we know about CNS dis­eases. Thus, it may be appro­pri­ate to think a lot more about new and dif­fer­ent ways to study these dis­eases and the pos­si­ble com­pounds that may work, as described in the great Web­MD sto­ry cov­er­ing the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit. We will pro­vide crit­i­cal fast feed­back for drug tri­als and move the whole field to pre­ci­sion medicine.

How are you fund­ing the com­pa­ny so far, and are you plan­ning to raise funds this year?

To date we have relied on friends and fam­i­ly. We are now work­ing on a larg­er raise — but still small by biotech stan­dards, maybe $3M.

How do you/ will you val­i­date that your solu­tions do what they are sup­posed to?

Our main appli­ca­tion now is mon­i­tor­ing of brain dis­eases, so that doc­tors can receive very quick feed­back on any changes rel­e­vant to dis­ease man­age­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly med­ica­tion. We derive val­i­da­tion from mea­sur­ing patients and work­ing with doc­tors for a num­ber of months in real-life settings.

Tell us a cou­ple excit­ing things you’re plan­ning for 2018 at NeuraMetrix

First, we have just begun to col­lect data on depres­sion, and it looks very promis­ing. We have a num­ber of great appli­ca­tion leads for depres­sion, and are hop­ing our tech­nol­o­gy can pro­vide great help to suf­fer­ers of mood and psy­chi­atric disorders.

Addi­tion­al­ly, we are plan­ning stud­ies to test if our tech­nol­o­gy works well out­side of CNS dis­eases, such as brain tumors, chemo brain and heart failure.

What are some key road­blocks ahead, and how are you plan­ning to address them?

The largest road­block com­ing up is to prove that our tech­nol­o­gy works for pro­vid­ing very ear­ly diag­nos­tics – years ear­li­er than today. This will require impor­tant inno­va­tions in meth­ods. We know how to quick­ly prove whether it works for Alzheimer’s and will soon be work­ing on Parkinson’s. A study just start­ed will show whether our tool can detect that Huntington’s has begun, although the patient is not show­ing any symptoms.

If you could go back in time to, say, 5–10 years ago, what advice would you have liked to receive?

I should have much ear­li­er focused on sim­ple, ele­gant solu­tions to big prob­lems. I did star­tups tack­ling very big prob­lems, but the com­plex­i­ty of the solu­tions made rais­ing cap­i­tal and find­ing pilot cus­tomers very challenging.

Final­ly, if I may, what do you do to stay sharp :-)

Puz­zles and games – Sudoku, bridge and chess prob­lems every day. NYT Sun­day cross­word puz­zle every week. Play bridge – wish I did more of it. My brain seems to work on prob­lems while I sleep – I often wake up and have a solu­tion in my head to some­thing from the day before.


Jan Samzelius, CEO & Co-Founder of Neu­raMetrix, has spe­cial­ized in quan­ti­ta­tive meth­ods for 40 years and invent­ed the typ­ing cadence tech­nol­o­gy cen­tral to the firm. He has pre­vi­ous­ly led a large num­ber of ana­lyt­i­cal projects, rang­ing from mea­sur­ing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion to price elas­tic­i­ties to con­joint analy­ses. He holds a BSc in eco­nom­ics from the Stock­holm School of Eco­nom­ics, grad­u­at­ing with hon­ors, and an MBA from Har­vard Busi­ness School.

Thanks to his great pitch and answers dur­ing the 2017 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit (slid­edeck avail­able below), Neu­raMetrix was select­ed as the Top Brain­no­va­tion to Mea­sure Brain Health.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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