With more than 40 companies on its roster, Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s life sciences incubator JLABS @ Toronto is celebrating a successful first year. One of eight such facilities around North America, JLABS provides early stage startups with space and expertise to get their ideas off the drawing board.
One of those companies is WinterLight Labs, which joined JLABS in January. WinterLight is developing an artificial intelligence platform that analyzes speech patterns to possibly diagnose neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Like a blood test looking for biological markers, WinterLight’s technology seeks to isolate cadence, word choice and other voice markers that might indicate a neurological issue.
“Different disorders have different clusters of variables associated with them,” said WinterLight CEO and cofounder Liam Kaufman in a phone interview. “For Alzheimer’s disease, there’s more hesitation in their speech. The complexity of their language is reduced, so they’ll say things like car instead of SUV or sedan. They’ll say fewer nouns and substitute with pronouns.”
Motor diseases like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis tend to affect how the voice sounds, often making it flatter. WinterLight’s software keys in on 400 speech variables that might indicate a problem. Kaufman notes that psychiatrists and neurologists have been recognizing these types of verbal cues for many years.
“Within three minutes of talking with a person, I can recognize they have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaufman, who has done extensive work with Alzheimer’s patients. “I can’t articulate what I’m picking up, I can’t put a number on it, I just know. This technology is putting a number on it.”
While many of the advantages associated with incubators are obvious – access to investors, regulatory input and simply having a place to put your stuff – providing a built-in community to offer suggestions can be equally significant.
“A lot of life science companies go through the same things,” said Kaufman. “It’s useful to be able to talk to others.”
JLABS @ Toronto touts their no-strings attached model – in which companies retain intellectual property – as one contributor to their success. The site has attracted a diverse group of companies.
Eve Medical has developed an in-home kit to help women test for sexually transmitted infections.
DoseBiome is investigating the oral microbiome to address tooth and gum conditions.
Proteorex Therapeutics has developed a unique discovery platform to accelerate small molecule drug development.
“We officially moved in September of last year, and we have been nothing but impressed,” said Aman Iqbal, Proteorex Therapeutics CEO, in an email. “Each member of the JLABS @ Toronto team has gone above and beyond their duty and answered every possible question we have had.”
Having greater access to business expertise is a resounding benefit. Some company pick up the added advantage of producing technology that could augment J&J’s massive portfolio.
One example is Clerio Vision, which is developing a laser eye therapy that changes the cornea’s refractive index (how light bends as it passes through) rather than its shape.
“Since joining JLABS, J&J has acquired Abbott Medical Optics and is now a global leader in refractive and cataract surgery, the two other application areas of interest to us,” said Clerio CEO Mikael Totterman in an email.
WinterLight has moved past those heady “first date” moments with their technology and is now grinding through product development. They are working with speech pathologists, pharmaceutical companies and senior care homes to test drive their platform and find the right applications.
“When you have a general tool, that can be used for a lot of different things,” said Kaufman. “We’re trying to figure out what those first few things will be.”
View Original Article: http://medcitynews.com/2017/05/5-medtech-companies-watch-jlabs-toronto