Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.

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About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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