With Verily vet on board, Mindstrong Health gets $14M to quantify mental health by monitoring smartphone usage

By Jonah Comstock
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Mindstrong Health, the mental health startup that former NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel left Verily for last month, has raised $14 million. Foresite Capital and ARCH Venture Partners led the round, with additional participation from Optum Ventures, Berggruen Holdings, and the One Mind Brain Health Impact Fund. 

Although it has been reported that Insel left Verily to start Mindstrong, the startup was actually founded in 2014 by Dr. Paul Dagum. Insel is taking on the title of cofounder, in addition to his role of president, but wasn't involved the actual founding of the company.

Mindstrong is working on a project similar to what Insel was working on before leaving Verily. The company is developing objective measures of brain function based on patterns of interaction with a smartphone. Digital biomarkers Mindstrong measures include processing speed, attention, memory and executive function.

"All modern medicine is based on objective measurement, yet tracking mental health has been limited to subjective reports in a clinical environment," Dagum, the company's CEO, said in a statement. "To improve outcomes for people with mental disorders, we need the kind of objective measures we have for other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Mindstrong's technology delivers continuous, objective measures of behavior and cognition at a level of resolution and insight that has never been possible."

The company, which is still largely stealthy, may well have more up its sleeve. The funding is going into large-scale research and development to determine how Mindstrong's digital phenotyping can be used to transform mental health care.

"What excites me about Mindstrong is the transformation of an individual's patterns of typing or scrolling on a smartphone into precise measures of cognitive function," Insel said in a statement. "This new, powerful approach to assessment serves as the foundation for developing better interventions to improve mental health care. Mental disorders are global health problems. With smartphones we have a potential global solution."