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Contxto – Imagine being able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s in 10 minutes or even 10 years before even reaching a clinical diagnosis. Using an eye detector and laptop, the Argentine startup ViewMind is making this supposition a portable and quick reality.
Based on its healthtech solution, ViewMind won the FIT4START prize from Luxinnovation in early October. Through this victory, it earned a hefty €150,000 (around US$167,000) grant.
Likewise, its CEO, Matías Schulz, will be traveling to Luxembourg to participate in an accelerator program starting November 11. During the four-month program, ViewMind will have the opportunity to extend its commercial reach into the European market.
ViewMind healthtech solution for Alzheimer’s
To understand ViewMind, let’s first explore the science behind diagnosing Alzheimer’s. According to Mayo Clinic, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a phase between normal cognitive decline that comes with age and dementia. This means that MCI is frequently an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, a timely MCI diagnosis can delay the appearance of the disease. Via tests and exercises, the startup reports that it can identify MCI with an accuracy rate above 85 percent.
When you acquire its tech for US$3,500, ViewMind provides a suitcase containing two things: an eye tracker and a laptop. The eye detector serves to run these tests. Meanwhile, the laptop harbors the software necessary for detecting and uploading the results.
One of the primary tests the system applies involves reading exercises, as the 31-year-old CEO explains.
“When a person reads, you don’t sweep through the entire sentence, but rather fix your gaze on different words and jump back and forth,” said Schulz. “A person with a healthy brain can absorb the information from the start of the sentence, internalize that information in a fraction of a second, then predict the end of a sentence without having to read the whole thing.”
That’s not the case with people experiencing Alzheimer’s.
“A person with cognitive deterioration cannot access their working memory quickly enough and must go back and reread the sentence multiple times to understand its meaning,” added Schulz.
While the test is running, information is fed into the laptop. After this, the results are uploaded onto the cloud where ViewMind’s algorithms take over. Through automation, the system analyzes the results to identify patterns and provide much-needed answers regarding the patient’s mental health.
It’s important to note that these neurocognitive evaluations are charged at a separate cost.
This startup emerged in 2004 as a joint effort between the Argentine government tech research agency, CONICET and the National University of the South. From there, ViewMind’s solution spread to Colombia, Spain, Switzerland as well as the UK, mainly for clinical purposes or research.
After taking on the European market, the Argentine startup wants to make a difference back home. Given that everything can be carried in a single suitcase, this tech can greatly benefit people in rural areas.
“Our goal in the future is to replicate this program in Argentina and improve the quality of life of thousands of people in the country,” said Schulz.
There are already some startups in Latin America, like Praxis, working to better understand neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.