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Biotechs Partner on Agitation Detection Technology

Sad, depressed

(Daniel Reche, Pixabay)

2 Sept. 2021. Two developers of treatments and tools for neurological diseases are developing a system for early detection of agitation, a symptom of psychiatric disorders. MindMed in New York and BioXcel Therapeutics Inc. in New Haven, Connecticut filed for an international patent on the technology to detect early signals of agitation in patients before full-fledged symptoms occur.

MindMed, short for Mind Medicines Inc., is a two year-old biotechnology company that discovers and develops therapies from psychedelic compounds to treat mental health disorders, including addiction, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD in adults. The company also develops tools for for therapists to help find personalized treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders. MindMed’s previous collaborations, however, appear to be with academic labs on treatments rather than diagnostics.

BioXcel Therapeutics develops cancer therapies and treatments for agitation that results from neurological disorders. The company uses artificial intelligence algorithms and big data analytics to identify new applications for current drugs or those already tested in clinical trials. The company’s lead product, code-named BXCL501, is a treatment for agitation, now in clinical trials among patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia, and opioid withdrawal. BXCL501 is a formulation of the FDA-approved sedative dexmedetomidine, given as a thin film dissolved under the tongue.

Detect “fight-or-flight” signals

The system under development by the two companies is designed to detect early signals from the sympathetic nervous system that regulates the body’s “fight-or-flight” reactions in individuals predisposed to agitation. According to the patent application, sensors in a wearable device such as a wristband or ring, monitor signals associated with agitation on the individual’s skin surface and relay the signals to a mobile app.

The app converts the signals into data sent to a local server that can alert a caregiver of the wearer’s impending agitation episode. The mobile app also transmits data to a network server, where they’re relayed to databases for storage and analysis. Those data are then used to train and refine the algorithms detecting agitation in signals from the nervous system.

“This project,” says MindMed’s chief medical officer Daniel Karlin in a company statement, “serves as an example of the kind of impact that can be achieved at the cross-section of digital medicine, applied machine learning, and traditional development of pharmaceutical compounds. The early detection of any clinically important symptom can bring significant value to patients across a range of conditions.” Karlin is one of the inventors listed on the patent application.

For Martin Majernik, MindMed’s digital product lifecycle director and co-inventor of the technology, the project is more personal. “This collaboration hits close to my heart,” notes Majernik, “because the first subject who helped us develop prototypes was my now deceased grandfather, while he was in his later stages of dementia. Watching him become increasingly confused and ultimately become aggressive was heartbreaking for our family, yet through this project, that heartbreak was sublimated into motivation for me.”

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