Altoida Inc. today announced a $6.3 million round of venture capital financing to bring its FDA-cleared and CE Mark-approved medical device and brain health data platform to patients, physicians and researchers around the globe. Led by a team of esteemed neuroscientists, physicians and computer scientists, Altoida uses digital biomarkers to drive better clinical outcomes for brain disease.
The Series A round was led by M Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of the science and technology company Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, with participation from Grey Sky Venture Partners, VI Partners AG, Alpana Ventures, and FYRFLY Venture Partners. The new capital will be used to further expand Altoida’s global presence with an immediate focus on commercialization activities in the US and EU markets.
“Altoida is at the forefront of a new era to leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to assess brain health,” said Alexander Hoffmann, Principal, New Businesses at M Ventures. “Our investment reflects our belief that digital biomarkers are the future and might lead to earlier diagnosis, and potentially better supportive care for a wide range of brain diseases. Altoida promises to deepen our understanding of brain health and contribute with positive impact on medicine and society.”
Altoida offers healthcare professionals a novel way to objectively assess cognitive and everyday functions, in the most ecologically valid way, prior to the onset of symptoms. The company’s FDA cleared and CE Mark-approved medical device leverages the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented reality to collect functional and cognitive biomarkers to help detect Alzheimer’s disease up to ten years prior to onset – with up to 94% accuracy.
“Searching for early, more accurate and scalable preclinical markers of Alzheimer’s disease has been the holy grail for clinicians, researchers and pharma companies alike that are trying to predict Alzheimer’s-type cognitive decline and develop early interventions,” said Dr. Ioannis Tarnanas, PhD, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Altoida (an ETH University Zurich spin-off). “The ability of Altoida’s digital biomarkers platform to collect very sensitive and ecologically valid markers of early functional and cognitive changes in the most scalable way, by using only a mobile phone or tablet, is unmatched by today’s medical tests and a game changer for the field.”
Altoida’s product analyzes visuospatial and executive function during complex activities of daily living through a battery of three tests that ask patients to hide and seek virtual objects in a physical space. The company has validated its platform and methodology in more than 12 peer-reviewed journal publications and in more than 200 independent studies. It is currently being used in clinics across the US, Europe and Brazil.
“While we know that early detection of Alzheimer’s is the key and leads to better outcomes, only 16% of seniors today receive regular assessments in the US, and this situation becomes more critical as we look at other geographic regions,” said Dr. Richard Fischer, Founder & CEO at Altoida. “Today’s diagnostic methods are either outdated, costly and invasive, or highly nuanced. We are taking aim at this acute problem with a fast, fun, accurate and scalable AI-driven solution that collects digital biomarkers to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s as early as ten years before symptoms appear – we like to call them ‘micro errors’. Our software or app is designed to be used by a wide range of healthcare professionals, from primary care physicians (GP’s) to neurologists to insurance companies, in order to make early detection accessible to more people around the world with the goal of significantly delaying the onset of MCI due to AD – and resulting in an overall cost reduction.”
Taking Aim at the Alzheimer’s Disease Epidemic
The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly growing. In 2019 alone, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion. Yet, research shows 1 in 3 dementia cases are preventable if diagnosed before permanent and irreversible brain damage occurs.
Altoida’s digital biomarkers harness advances in technology to detect brain changes early in the disease process, helping to accelerate early diagnosis for better clinical outcomes. Using an iPad or a Tablet accelerometer, gyroscope and touch screen sensors, Altoida is able to detect “micro-errors” as both a prognostic and diagnostic digital biomarker. The result is that medical professionals are able to detect Alzheimer’s disease in patients 62+ years old between six and ten years prior to the onset of symptoms – and before irreversible damage occurs.
“As the world’s effort to introduce meaningful therapies for Alzheimer’s disease inches closer and closer to success, it is clear that the greatest benefit will come to those whose disease is detected at a very early stage,” said Jonathan L. Liss, MD, Director at Columbus Memory Center and Founder of Columbus Memory Project, who has been using Altoida’s technology since September 2018. “The Altoida Neuro-Motor Index (NMI) device offers an ingenious way in which to detect early disease and track progression without prolonged cognitive testing, tissue sampling, or radiologic intervention. The Altoida NMI device is a welcome advancement to the field of cognitive health.”
“Altoida has the potential to be a ubiquitous Alzheimer’s screening and monitoring tool that is safe, effective and leads to better patient outcomes, and as rolled out more broadly, could significantly lower health care costs,” said Philipp Stauffer, Co-Founder and Managing Director at FYRFLY Venture Partners. “Unlike other detection solutions that collect passive data or only focus on a single behavior, Altoida collects a wide range of ‘active’ digital biomarkers as the patient is moving and completing tasks. They’ve amassed a vast dataset that not only helps them diagnose Alzheimer’s with unprecedented accuracy, but is tremendously valuable for ongoing research.”
Collected over the last 12 years, Altoida also offers its comprehensive digital biomarker dataset to researchers and major pharmaceutical companies who want to leverage pre-symptomatic data to enhance both treatment and drug R&D. Today, the company is working on two joint research collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies in both the United States and Japan.
Additional Comments on the News
- “Developing enhanced methods to objectively evaluate cognitive function is a critical component of the next generation of digital medicine – a component that is required to not only advance the basic research in neurodegenerative disease, but also one that is required for the development of improved clinical interventions. Altoida’s novel approach to developing digital biomarkers of cognitive function will promote the elaboration of specific ‘biotypes’ of neurodegenerative disease. Understanding neurodegenerative biotypes will dramatically improve our ability to conduct a differential diagnosis at the primary care level. Improved diagnostics will provide healthcare professionals with the key information necessary to precisely adapt clinical interventions to personalize the patient’s cognitive care. This will ultimately lead to improved outcomes of care and to reduced healthcare costs.” Dr. Walter Greenleaf, PhD, a neuroscientist and Distinguished Visiting Scholar working at the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
- “Diagnosis of an individual at risk for Alzheimer’s disease has been the biggest challenge in the field of Alzheimer’s disease and the Altoida, NMI digital biomarker technology has provided us with an innovative tool to detect the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in a reliable and gamified fashion.” – Dr. Namrata Das MD, MPH, Center for BrainHealth, The University of Texas at Dallas, who has been using Altoida’s NMI device for the past year.
- “The earlier cognitive impairment is detected, the sooner and more efficiently the brain can be protected. The Altoida NMI device is applicable in the direct care of patients today and for research to help provide the next generation of therapeutic products. A test that is easy to obtain, simple to perform, readily available, affordable, instantly diagnostic, reliable and can establish efficaciousness is a remarkable breakthrough in medicine.” – Charles Neblett, MD, Neurosurgeon – Baylor College of Medicine and Consultant / Medical Director at McNair Medical Institute, Houston TX.
- “We have been testing the Altoida NMI app since June 2018 in specific clinical settings, and the technology looks extremely promising. It is exactly what we have been looking for to improve our day-to-day routine, since prevention of cognitive decline in persons at risk of Alzheimer’s disease / MCI due to AD, and therefore prolonging the onset of AD, is much more effective than treating already advanced patients. Altoida’s cognitive assessment device assists clinicians in identifying these individuals at risk before they become symptomatic.” – Dr. med. Henry Perschak, Klinik Hirslanden, Zürich.
About M Ventures
M Ventures is the strategic, corporate venture capital arm of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Its mandate is to invest in innovative technologies and products with the potential to significantly impact the company’s core business areas. From its headquarters in Amsterdam and offices in the US and Israel, M Ventures invests globally in transformational ideas driven by great entrepreneurs. M Ventures takes an active role in its portfolio companies and teams up with entrepreneurs and co-investors to translate innovation towards commercial success. M Ventures has a significant focus on early stage investing and company creation, including the creation of spin-offs to leverage the company’s science and technology base. For more information, visit www.m-ventures.com.
Altoida Inc. is a health technology firm that uses digital biomarkers to drive better clinical outcomes for brain diseases. Led by a team of esteemed neuroscientists, physicians and computer scientists, the company offers a FDA-cleared and CE Mark-approved medical device and brain health data platform to support early detection of Alzheimer’s disease up to ten years prior to onset – with up to 94% accuracy. The company is privately held with offices in Houston, San Diego, and Lucerne, Switzerland.