Cognitive assessment app maker Savonix has raised $9.6 million in what the company is calling an extension of its 2017 $5.1 million Series A round. Along with its $1.5 million seed round, this brings the company's total funding to $16.2 million. New investors Fusion Fund and Wavemaker Partners led the round, with additional participation from new investor DEFTA Partners and existing investors Rethink Impact and DigiTx Partners.
WHAT THEY DO
Savonix's flagship app, Savonix Mobile, is a 30-minute brain training and testing app based on existing clinical guidelines and procedures. Designed to replace a costly, often time-consuming process that involves a clinician working with pen and paper to screen patients, it was launched in 2016. But the app is just part of the company's offering.
"We provide neurocognitive assessment, which is an app that faces the patient, but we also provide all this support, clinical decision support and workflow support and treatment planning support for the clinical provider," CEO Mylea Charvat told MobiHealthNews. "We also work with researchers, both academic and pharmaceutical companies, providing cognitive measurement in clinical trials."
Savonix's platform can be used in a variety of ways, including screening for different kinds of dementia and ADHD. However, it's not FDA-cleared and doesn't itself offer diagnosis. The company uses the technology differently with different partners.
"We test across lots of domains and we also test across the entire spectrum of function from impaired to very high functioning," Charvat said. "So we’re working with partners on projects from monitoring patients in Alzheimer’s treatment, to another project we’ll be announcing in the next couple of months where we’re working with a major industry partner with top tier athletes and we’re looking at how do we improve cognition to improve athletic performance. We’ve been doing a pilot for a year and now we’re getting ready to do something a little larger with them."
Charvat says robust validation is an important part of the company's mission.
"I think where healthcare and technology [often] collide in a really violent fashion is around speed," she said. "You’ve got technology companies that traditionally move very fast and medical companies that traditionally move really slow because of the rigor of … doing good science. I’m really excited about this company because we’ve done a good job moving pretty fast but also holding that line. For me, that’s important because I feel like in the digital health space there’s a lot of companies doing a really good job. And we’re starting to see more proof points that you don’t have to exaggerate what your product does and you don’t have to skip good science in order to be a viable technology company. You can do both."
WHAT IT'S FOR
Charvat says the funding will be used to build out the technology, though the company isn't sharing too many details on specific features yet.
"One of the things we really want to do is we want to expand our support and our support systems and clinical decision support systems for our clinical providers," she said. "We want to improve clinical workflow and integrations, which is something we’re going to use a lot of this funding for. And then we want to expand our platform with a handful of new offerings that are in development."
The investors themselves suggest that this round, like the last, is also focused on an expansion into Asian markets, particularly Japan, which has unique needs around dementia and Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of death and disability in aging countries like Japan, far exceeding heart disease," Paul Santos, managing partner at Wavemaker, said in a statement. "Yet, despite Asia's aging population, there are few clinical neuropsychologists in Asia leaving patients to endure long wait times and expensive pen-and-paper tests. We believe Savonix's digital solution helps bridge this gap, so people get the diagnosis and care they need in a timely and cost-effective manner. We are excited to invest in Savonix as they scale their partnerships to build the cognitive datasets that do not exist currently, particularly for non-Caucasian populations."
Over the years, a number of companies have explored digitizing neurocognitive assessment. Some examples include Neurotrack, which has raised more than $29 million, including a recent $3.3 million NIA grant; VeraSci (formerly NeuroCog Trials) which received an NIH grant to develop its iPad-based cognitive assessment tool, and Cambridge Cognition, which received FDA clearance for its Cantab Mobile tool for detecting memory impairment.
ON THE RECORD
"Fusion Fund is excited to join the Savonix team, as we see great potential of applying AI technology in mental health screening and prevention," Lu Zhang, founder and managing partner of Fusion Fund, said in a statement. "Savonix has the leading product platform and team in the industry for digital cognitive assessment. We are excited to accelerate the company’s growth as it enters the next stage of partnership and market expansion."