Sandra Challma, with a background in neuropsychology and imaging research, is now the CEO of Cognes Medical Solutions. Sandra’s MedTech journey began when her mother started showing symptoms of cognitive decline. The family found it difficult to enter an investigation, much likely due to the lack of resources in healthcare. At this point, Sandra noticed both a gap and an opportunity. Now, she works hard and is now fully committed to optimizing Cognes as a screening tool that can help detect dementia early. The aim: ‘to revolutionize global healthcare through digital innovation’.
Dementia has been declared a public health priority with over 50 million cases worldwide today.
Sandra’s company Cognes has developed a smart-phoned-based solution that makes it easy and painless to identify individuals who are at risk of developing dementia. Receiving treatment before symptoms appear can increase their chances of extending years in quality of life, which is why it is important to detect signs early. 60% of cases are diagnosed too late when its effects are irreversible.
–We now know that Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease, instead of merely a stigma for the elderly population, says Sandra, and we know that it can be treated if detected at an early stage.
Frustration Led to Investigation
–There are many gaps in the healthcare system, Sandra says. It is upsetting when your loved ones do not access proper screening when you know they are in need of care. Out of my frustration, my curiosity started growing and I began investigating to see if there were alternativfe ways of getting my mother examined.
Sandra started looking for other screening and diagnostic solutions.
–I stumbled upon my future business partner and his idea. Filip Peters had developed a machine learning model that could screen patients. As I learned more, I found that I wanted to pursue this business venture and give my best effort to bring this new solution to market.
This is how she came to leave the academic world and move into a new one, the world of business. It is a path she has not regretted:
–I’m very happy about it, as I learn new things all the time and have a great sense of purpose in my work, she says.
The App Discovers Subtle Cues in People’s Faces
The medical scanning solution that Cognes is developing is based on training a machine model to detect subtle indicators of facial features. It can reveal if a person might be developing dementia. Research shows that our faces can disclose signs of microscopic changes, not seen through the naked eye. The algorithm has been trained to discover these:
–In our pilot study we found promising results that we can tell between healthy groups and people with signs of dementia.
Cognes’ wants to introduce the solution as a yearly checkup option with clinics so that they can discover individuals who are at risk of developing dementia.
–Many healthcare systems cannot prevent illnesses. Focus is often on treating the sick, Sandra says.
Making Screenings a Part of Health Check-Ups
Cognes mission, however, is to revitalize the healthcare systems, so that preventive measures are prioritized to a higher extent.
–By doing so, we aim to delay the emergence of various diseases significantly. By strategically implementing effective screening solutions, we make it possible for physicians to better allocate resources. This way we can contribute to changing lives and extending the lifespan of individuals across the world!
Also, continuous detection of diseases that can be prevented will save the healthcare sector societal costs.
–There are costs for screening and diagnosis, treatment of various symptoms, costs for post-diagnosis care solutions, as well as for screening and treatment of associated illnesses, such as depression and anxiety that often come with the diagnosis, she explains.
The team has developed the machine learning model and filed for patents. Now, the team is focusing on further training and optimizing the solution together with research partners, collecting valuable and high-quality data.
– We are dedicated to bringing this solution to the market as soon as we can.
Quick, Available, and Cost-Efficient
The tool itself is a smartphone-based app:
–You can easily screen a patient using a smartphone. Hence, it is a completely non-invasive procedure, Sandra says. Our cloud-based solution offers a quick, scalable, objective, and cost-efficient approach, filling a gap in existing screening methods.
The idea is not that patients screen themselves. If you show signs of dementia, you will need a clinical investigation and a medical plan composed together with your physician. It is primarily destined to provide healthcare professionals and researchers with an objective and efficient screening tool to aid in the diagnostic process.
–We see doctors and clinicians use Cognes to examine facial images of high-risk patients in the initial stages, like how we conduct cancer screenings today, for instance, mammography.
One of the greatest challenges today is including regular screening systems:
–It is uncommon for individuals to visit their doctor expecting to be diagnosed with dementia. Another issue is that one can neglect potential signs of memory loss – perhaps due to denial or lack of knowledge. Today, 60% of cases are diagnosed too late, when its effects are irreversible.
In summary, Cognes tackles the critical need for early, efficient, and equitable dementia detection and management, using technology as a catalyst for change in preventative healthcare.
Cognes is still in its early stages and is building its algorithms to get higher accuracy and better sensitivity results. You may recognize them as ADix by Genad. They recently evolved into Cognes Medical Solutions, and the name reflects that evolution. Cognes derives from the Latin word “Cognosere”, which means “to see” and “to recognize”. This rebranding better captures their broader vision and technology.
Curious to learn more? Get in touch with Sandra Challma, LinkedIn