It is not just clinical doctors who choose medicine because of a personal healthcare experience. Zied Tayeb explains why and how he co-founded medtech Myelin-H in Luxembourg.
Founders are getting younger and younger. The fact that Myelin-H co-founder Zied Tayeb is 30 years old is hardly surprising. What is astonishing, however, is how much he has packed into those three decades: a computer scientist, who pivoted to neuroscience and founded a medtech startup. Did I mention that he’s an associate professor at the University of Manchester? Originally from Tunisia, Tayeb has spent much of his life in the UK, where he picked up his impressive Mancunian accent. By far, the biggest influence on his professional and academic journey has been his mother.
“My mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and, regrettably due to the lack of remote monitoring solutions, she didn’t receive the proper treatment. She ended up being unable to walk and progressed from relapsing remitting MS to secondary progressive MS almost silently,” the entrepreneur explains. He began a PhD in neuroscience in Germany and at John Hopkins University in the US, in the hope he could help his mother regain mobility.
2.8 MS sufferers worldwide
It is estimated that 2.8 million people live with MS, with women three times more prevalent than men. Half of patients experience disability disease progression, like Tayeb’s mother. Of that cohort, 42% of patients receive inadequate treatment to the initial stage of disease. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved about 25 MS medications, however, MS patients require personalised treatment.
Tayeb found that if patients received the right treatment at the right time under the right circumstances, the disease’s progression could be stalled. During his doctorate, he began working on a proprietary technology that gamifies neuroscience, which he later fine-tuned as a product for doctors but also pharmaceutical companies to monitor the impact of drugs in clinical trials on brain function.
“We have a brain machine interface sensor, which is CE marked and FDA approved, which captures various brain activity non-invasively,” he explains. The technology uses new multi-computing, biologically inspired machine learning trained on actual neural networks in the brain. The patient completes a series of cognitive games while wearing a specially designed helmet with built-in sensors that captures brain activity similar to an MRI scan.
“For instance, one of our games is about measuring attention and memory in the brain so we stimulate the patient’s brain and then our algorithms analyse and detect specific patterns in the brain in the visual cortex,” says Tayeb.
Open source software
Myelin-H translates the data into digital biomarkers, which inform doctors or researchers about the responsiveness and effectiveness of a treatment, the disease progression, and estimates the likelihood of a relapse or seizure.
“It takes around 900 milliseconds to detect the brain patterns and a few seconds to generate the full medical report with the data insights and that’s all shared on a mobile clinical dashboard,” says Tayeb.
Well before Tayeb co-launched the startup in 2021, he published the open source software of its foundational research to help other researchers. One day Samaher Garbaya, a Masters student, reached out with some technical questions. She suggested they create a company. Today, she is the company’s co-founder, COO and also Tayeb’s life partner.
Things have also moved fast on the business side. Since completing the Luxembourg covid Fit 4 Start accelerator programme, Myelin-H is negotiating with European pharmaceutical companies to licence its clinical trials treatment response monitoring platform for digital clinical trials. And it is currently seeking FDA ‘breakthrough device designation” for the MS patient-doctor remote (home-based) monitoring solution for which it is in the middle of a $4m Seed round, half of which has been committed. In the coming quarter, Myelin-H plans to open an office in Boston, the US, and another in Belgium, with the latter focusing on sales and pharmaceutical company relationships.
And by the end of the year, Tayeb expects the global team to grow from the current seven to 12 FTEs.
The firm has also been examining other applications for the technology, among them the effects of space radiation on astronauts. In 2022, Myelin-H was selected for the US-based Care In Space Challenge by Axiom Space & Boryung, advancing the future of space health. “Around 94% of astronauts travelling in deep space for more than six months experience brain health issues and are prone to brain disorders,” Tayeb explained. As part of the accelerator programme, it received $100k in equity investment and mentoring from NASA, Starburst and Axion Space.