Dementia is an arduous disease. It is the leading cause of death in the UK, and one in six individuals is expected to develop the condition by age 85. Critically, an estimated 62% of all dementia patients are undiagnosed, for whom the disease is even more traumatising. Unknowingly living with dementia is distressing for the individual, incurs familial and financial hardship, and engenders risky behaviour. Early diagnosis of dementia improves prognosis for the individual and attenuates psychological and emotional stress. Presently, COVID-19 has left society’s most vulnerable, the elderly, afraid or unable to access vital neurological care. Inabilities for patients and clinicians to monitor disease progression, adjust treatment plans, or screen new-onset dementia will have substantial impacts on both the individual and the NHS beyond the current pandemic. Remote screening of dementia will increase accessibility of neurological care and allow clinicians to operate safely whilst caring for a greater number of patients.
Mindset is a mobile application that comprehensively screens for dementia by guiding the user through clinically validated diagnostic tests. Based on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, Mindset screens for neurological anomalies and uses artificial intelligence to accurately flag clinically relevant findings. For example, a common sign of dementia is a lack of vertical eye movement, which is practically assessed by having the patient follow a doctor’s finger. Mindset animates an object for the patient to track and leverages Apple’s ARKit technology to quantify the user’s eye movement, mimicking a robust clinical analysis. By directly assessing a range of symptoms, our technology goes
beyond competitor solutions who rely on self-reported symptoms. In an initial study conducted with Imperial College London, our approach to cognitive screening was shown to outperform the average GP. Mindset aims to safeguards the most vulnerable members of society, delivering the neurological care they deserve from the safety of their homes.
Mindset has never been a “business idea”. The idea came to me whilst volunteering as an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) patient, and I noticed that medics performed varying neurological examinations for the same set of symptoms, resulting in differing diagnoses and inconsistent care. This was not a fault of medics but the fact that neurological diseases are complex and hard to diagnose. So, the idea originated not from a business perspective, but from the ambition to
deliver a better standard of care to patients. Further, inspired by Dr Atul Gawande’s book ‘Checklist Manifesto’, which advocates how success in medicine comes through accessibility and organisation, the notion of translating diagnostic tests onto a smartphone seemed an intuitive solution. Now, as our core team has progressed through their various university degrees, we constantly evolve Mindset to better fulfil our founding goal.
It’s very tempting to invite all of your mates aboard your ‘idea’ before setting sail. However, founding a company often feels like navigating a storm – fighting failure, competitors, and your own doubt tends to bring about turbulence. So, I thought it wise to have a crew that I had worked well with before. Itai, Aaron and I met working together as Teaching Assistants for an internship at Stanford University, which turned out to be an extremely demanding endeavour. Despite that summer-job being quite challenging, I remember being impressed with how honest and determined they remained under pressure. Ultimately, though what we were teaching had nothing to do with neurology, we worked very well together and more importantly, we are great friends.
Mindset is currently overseen by clinician Dr. Mohammad Mahmud, who ensures that our young powerhouse is bolstered by sound neurological experience. I approached Dr. Mahmud after a talk he gave, where he analysed current dementia assessments. We then met for met for coffee, bonded over football, and now regularly meet to refine our patient-centric approach.
Enterprise Lab support
In short, the Enterprise Lab was crucial to getting Mindset off the ground. From our first VC meeting with Blenheim Chalchot to our latest VC competition entry, the Lab has always provided wonderful guidance and support. I first met Camille & Ben from the Enterprise Lab in 2018, who showed us the space, the mission, and the Enterprise beer. They were extremely helpful and everything about the Lab was refreshing, giving us the confidence to enter into VCC 2019. Though the mentors throughout VCC were extremely insightful, what transformed Mindset was the simple nature of competing against other start-ups. Learning exactly how determined other Imperial students were to get their start-ups going was both terrifying and inspiring – it really got me to focus on trying to make the most out of my idea.
The next steps
Come August 2020, we will complete our public launch of Mindset 3.0 to the AppStore. This version will be capable of securely and swiftly assessing an individual’s neurological health. The purpose of a wide-scale launch will be to catalyse the education of our HIPAA-compliant artificial intelligence, not only to be exemplary at understanding the minutiae of neurological health, but with a focus on detecting early-presentations and monitoring risk-factors.
At this stage, we’re looking for two key things: (1) downloading Mindset and (2) funding to continue to the next stage. To build our application to the point where it can help individuals suffering from dementia, we need as many individuals to download and use Mindset as possible. By downloading the application and using it, we can better understand what a healthy brain looks like, and eventually build our AI model to distinguish between normal and at-risk presentations. After our launch, funding will support our plans to continue developing Mindset to the point that it can be fully integrated with the NHS as a medical device.
Biggest successes so far
1. Hiring Alex Jacobo de Blonder, credited with developing a design that encourages patients to enjoy
taking ownership of their health.
2. Declining funding from venture capital firms because we did not want to change our founding goals.
3. Always taking any advice on board and spending time with our target audience i.e patients.
1. Neglecting Ui/Ux when designing the initial product. It sounds obvious, but intuitive design is
2. Delaying launch because we were trying to perfect the product.
3. Putting all our hopes on winning one competition, rather than putting our eggs in multiple baskets.
Advice for future founders:
‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher
Robin, Winnie the Pooh