A Luxembourg medtech company hopes to help pharmaceutical firms dramatically increase the success rate of treatments under development using ocular monitoring technology. ViewMind CEO Mark Edwards talks about the company’s groundbreaking work.
Free tips on how to keep the brain healthy are in abundance on the internet and via scores of apps. But, if you want to accurately monitor physical brain health, you’ll need deep pockets and to be prepared to suffer invasive testing like PET scans, spinal fluid testing and MR volumetric analysis. Practitioners can also detect disease progression by monitoring the development of the 100 billion neurons in the brain and their 100 trillion dynamically changing connections to other neurons.
“When there is a physical change to the brain, and there is a disease or it could even be a psychiatric disorder […] it also manifests in the neural pathway layer of the brain,” explains ViewMind CEO Mark Edwards. When a patient is subjected to neuropsychological or behavioural tests consisting of a series of questions, cognitive impairments can be detected in these neural pathways.
However, the testing lacked specificity, until recently. ViewMind has developed a software and cloud-based algorithm from data gathered using VR glasses which interprets eye movement responses to visual stimuli from short, non-invasive tests.
“We can read eye movements and understand what that tells us about the preservation of different brain regions,” says the CEO, adding: “We can measure micro cognitive impairment, changes in the brain, micro cognitive changes that arise from either disease progression or from treatment response.”
Diagnosing a disease at an early stage is all well and good, provided treatment exists to help the patient, which is not always the case. This is why ViewMind is focused on working with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals to measure the effectiveness of approved drugs.
New Drug And Treatment Effectiveness
“If a doctor is treating a patient, then they can get objective data about what might be the best treatment, and measure how the patient is responding to the treatment,” says Edwards.
The technology can also be used to assess the effectiveness of drugs already on the market on the patient. And the firm is currently pushing its product for the precision development of central nervous system drugs. In this field, the approval rate of clinical trial drugs is less than half that of non-central nervous system drugs.
“Part of the reason is that pharmaceuticals have lacked the tools to be able to precisely characterise the patients and measure sensitively the impact of the drugs,” says Edwards. It means that some drugs which may have been effective were not approved.
From Argentina to Luxembourg
Initially established in Argentina and now with its European headquarters in Luxembourg, ViewMind participated in the ninth edition of Fit 4 Start, Luxembourg’s accelerator programme. Its medical device is CE certified, approved in Latin America and the company is applying for FDA approval. It has secured key commercial partners, including Novartis, Biogen, as well as the universities of Antioquia and Amazonia, in Colombia.
And it is working with the Luxembourg Institute of Health on a pivotal study in the field of characterising neuro long covid, the long-term, neurocognitive deficits which impact some people after they recover from COVID. Edwards explains: “It’s an area that is of concern because many of these individuals are very tired, they can’t work, they can’t concentrate on a job, so it affects their whole livelihood and families.”
The findings are expected to be published mid-2024 and the goal will be to commercialise a new product in Europe based on COVID. The firm has also published a number of posters about its studies.
“Our vision in the longer term is that we see View Mind as a leading provider in the market of game-changing technology to provide a cognitive biomarker that is as useful and has as much utility as doing a blood pressure test,” says Edwards.