Back when I worked in software infrastructure, there was a saying: “you can’t fix what you can’t measure”. But, while it is indeed true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the fact that it just so happens to squeak at a frequency that our ears can detect plays an important role in whether we get the WD-40 down from the shelf.
In the human body, we get no such luck. Many debilitating or fatal conditions creep up on us with changes happening so slowly and quietly that there is no proverbial ‘squeak’ to hear until it’s much too late to do anything about it. In my own family, I saw first-hand the chilling effects of dementia on both of my grandfathers – the way it eased so smoothly into their lives, taking hold over years of decline.
My family is in no way alone for having faced this. It is estimated that, by 2021, over a million people will be suffering from some form of dementia in the UK. In the USA, there are close to eight million new cases annually and, by 2030, some estimates pin the number of global cases at possibly over 75 million.
It is for reasons such as these that we at Anthemis Exponential Ventures are proud to announce our investment into Novoic. Created at Entrepreneur First by Emil Fristed and Jack Weston, Novoic uses truly cutting-edge AI to detect and analyse patterns in regular speech that indicate the onset and severity of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s, as well as well-known affective disorders such as severe anxiety and depression. We at Anthemis Exponential Ventures are always interested in solutions that help insurers either measure risk during the underwriting process or reduce it later once it’s already present in the pool. With Novoic, the prospect of alerting individuals to the very earliest signs of notoriously hard-to-detect brain diseases using just a few minutes of natural speech fits this description perfectly.
By measuring the unmeasurable and taking the appropriate action sooner, Novoic’s early warning (potentially coming decades before a traditional diagnosis) could turn a disease that would otherwise be terminal into a condition that’s chronic and manageable, lengthening lifespans and keeping brains healthier for longer. One common criticism of any life-extending technology is that, rather than improving lives, it’s just adding “one more week in the nursing home”. With Novoic, and coupled with the right intervention, we’re talking about adding many real, healthier, independent years to our lives. Years not spent on our deathbeds but, instead, together with those we love, engaging so much more fully in the world around us.
You’d be hard pressed to find a mission that suits a particle physicist CTO and a computational neurologist CEO as neatly as measuring brain health from spoken language. The pairing works so well, in fact, that you’d almost be mistaken for thinking the company had created the founders rather than vice-versa. Their active pursuit of excellence and their sheer knowledge about the space makes us thrilled to back a wonderfully effective team like Jack and Emil.
If I haven’t made it clear enough already, we at Anthemis Exponential Ventures are very pleased to be making this investment. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and supporting the company in their pursuit of such a noble goal.