Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Dr. Albert Kwon, CEO of Brainnovations Winner AUGMENTx, wants to harness Augmented Reality to significantly ease access to Neurological Rehabilitation Therapies


Albert, what sur­prised you the most from the Judges’ ques­tions and feed­back dur­ing the Brain­no­va­tions Pitch Con­test?

It was a pleas­ant sur­prise to receive so many votes and such great feed­back, which solid­i­fied my con­vic­tion that there is a great need to cre­ate new ther­a­py options for stroke patients and oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal injuries, espe­cial­ly giv­en our aging pop­u­la­tion.  Med­ical sys­tems world­wide will strug­gle to han­dle the grow­ing bur­den of chron­ic ill­ness­es unless we start act­ing soon.

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

The core idea is to lever­age visu­al-cog­ni­tive and visu­al-motor/sen­so­ry con­nec­tions of the brain to enhance per­for­mance in dis­ease states.  For exam­ple, mir­ror ther­a­py takes advan­tage of the mir­ror neu­ron path­way to improve post-stroke motor recov­ery and to alle­vi­ate phan­tom limb pain in limb amputees.  And we believe that these ther­a­pies can be deliv­ered on dig­i­tized AR plat­forms, instead of being always con­fined to few spe­cial­ized phys­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters.  Why not have them be acces­si­ble from the patient’s home, espe­cial­ly in rur­al areas where there is often no access to any kind of rehab?

When and how did the idea come to you?

I real­ized the poten­tial of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty at a hackathon event at MIT, after a gru­el­ing 28 hour hos­pi­tal shift.  My co-founders had cre­at­ed a proof-of-con­cept pro­to­type and pre­sent­ed it to me when I vis­it­ed the demo sta­tion. It was a rev­e­la­tion, since a week pri­or I had had dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing mir­ror ther­a­py for a patient suf­fer­ing from phan­tom limb pain in my clin­ic — and the patient ulti­mate­ly lost inter­est in going to the one hos­pi­tal I some­how man­aged to find.  That is when I knew I want­ed to help them bring aug­ment­ed real­i­ty into clin­i­cal prac­tice.

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

As a physi­cian, I am cer­tain that Brain Health is and will con­tin­ue to be the most impor­tant med­ical prob­lem we must address col­lec­tive­ly.  In 2025, I imag­ine the pres­sure to improve brain health out­comes while con­tain­ing health­care cost will rise, so I see great oppor­tu­ni­ties for tech­nolo­gies such as aug­ment­ed real­i­ty, IoT, wear­ables, and mobile dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics all con­tribut­ing to opti­miz­ing the health­care deliv­ery process and ben­e­fit­ing many patients.

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

The co-founders of AUG­MEN­Tx have boot­strapped our com­pa­ny thus far and suc­cess­ful­ly built an MVP aug­ment­ed real­i­ty ther­a­py plat­form that is ready for pilot stud­ies in stroke patients and chron­ic pain patients; we have even start­ed to sell our ther­a­py plat­form as a research tool to aca­d­e­m­ic hos­pi­tals.  How­ev­er, the pro­ject­ed expense for run­ning our three pilot clin­i­cal stud­ies large­ly exceed our pro­ject­ed sales this year, so we are kick­ing off our equi­ty seed fundrais­ing as we speak.

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

We are plan­ning three fea­si­bil­i­ty pilot stud­ies and aim to start recruit­ing patients in the sec­ond half of the year.  Our main inter­est is test­ing whether our ther­a­py may have the same ben­e­fi­cial out­comes for stroke patients that tra­di­tion­al mir­ror ther­a­py has, so we are in active dis­cus­sions with pre­mier aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions regard­ing run­ning our pilot stud­ies with domain experts on stroke motor recov­ery and post-stroke chron­ic pain.

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

Besides the fundrais­ing and clin­i­cal stud­ies, we are look­ing for­ward to rig­or­ous­ly test­ing the lim­its of cur­rent smart­phones on which we wish to deploy our aug­ment­ed real­i­ty ther­a­py.  If we suc­ceed, we expect to bring down the cost of our ther­a­py sys­tem by an order of mag­ni­tude and allow many more patients to access our spe­cial­ized neu­ro­log­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion ther­a­pies at home.

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

The biggest chal­lenge in med­i­cine is build­ing the appro­pri­ate clin­i­cal evi­dence to ensure our approach ben­e­fits patients.  The co-founders at AUG­MEN­Tx knows that this will take sig­nif­i­cant effort, time, and cap­i­tal … and we are ready to take on the quite daunt­ing chal­lenge.

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

At that time, I was a med­ical stu­dent bare­ly keep­ing up with the immense amount of new med­ical infor­ma­tion I had to digest.  I wish some­one had told me to look beyond my med­ical text­books and to under­stand the chal­lenges of health­care deliv­ery sys­tems.  I think I would have had a bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion of the vast oppor­tu­ni­ties where tech­nol­o­gy can cre­ate val­ue for health­care.

Final­ly, if I may, what do you do to stay sharp 🙂

I exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly and spend two hours week­ly doing inter­net research on top­ics that spon­ta­neous­ly inter­est me in the moment, includ­ing non-med­ical top­ics such as par­ti­cle physics or ancient Egypt­ian his­to­ry. You nev­er run out of inter­est­ing things to explore!


Dr. Albert Kwon, Co-Founder & CEO of AUG­MEN­Tx, is an MIT and Har­vard trained biol­o­gist, pedi­a­tri­cian, and anes­the­si­ol­o­gist. After com­plet­ing his res­i­den­cies at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal and Boston Children’s Hos­pi­tal, he will fur­ther spe­cial­ize in pain med­i­cine at Stan­ford. He has exten­sive basic sci­ence and engi­neer­ing research expe­ri­ence in drug deliv­ery, tis­sue engi­neer­ing and regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine with pio­neer­ing researchers at MIT and Har­vard.

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

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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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