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Needs correction to prevent failure in the brain health technology market


The world is in the midst of a growing global crisis of brain health. This means all lifelong mental health and neuropathy, from autism and schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The existing workforce of healthcare providers cannot keep up with this epidemic of brain health, and existing approaches to care are severely inadequate. Screening is rarely done. Diagnosis is often subjective. Treatment is primarily trial and error.

Brain health technology is the key to addressing the global brain health crisis. These technologies extend to omics, digital therapies, artificial intelligence, robotics, and devices. They aim to improve the full range of care, from prevention to screening, diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care. They can promote personalization (think genetics), as well as scale and fairness (think apps and telemedicine).


The field of brain health technology is booming today, but it can easily collapse.



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The Gartners hype cycle is a graphical representation of common patterns in new technologies. There are five phases: Technology Trigger, Expectation Peak, Disillusionment Valley, Enlightenment Incline, and Productivity Plateau. We believe that the hype cycle is related to the area of ​​brain health technology and provides a warning story against it.

We are seeing signs of peak expectations for brain health technology. In mid-2021, a record $ 1.9 billion was poured into brain health start-ups. Similarly, a record number of early VC-backed companies and so-called unicorn companies worth more than $ 1 billion in this area are skyrocketing. These bulging assessments often contradict the underlying problems faced by brain health companies.

These fad-like trends divert attention from the deeper problems faced by many companies. Some consider the field of digital brain health technology to be a lawless wild west, citing concerns about false claims about health benefits and inadequate data privacy management practices. There is a common disconnect between commercially successful apps and clinically validated apps, where consumers and clinicians distinguish between which technologies work and which are just hype. is needed. These issues are of concern for sustainability in the field of brain health technology.

There is a significant risk that the field will enter the valley of disillusionment, which heralds cold interest from investors. This is especially problematic as this area requires decades of sustained growth, investment and innovation to overcome the current brain health crisis. Market failure in the field of brain health technology will be disastrous. The failure of every company means the loss of potentially valuable products, services, and new intellectual property that may help patients.

Given these dynamics, traditional venture capital may not be optimal for the field of brain health technology.


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The traditional venture capital model has treasury executives with minimal or no domain experience. Models 2 and 20 evaluate financial returns within a set time frame and impede significant operational input from the general partners who manage the venture fund. The traditional venture capital model can result in forced feeding unicorns that squeeze large amounts of money into a company to optimize returns to limited partners, those who capitalize on venture funds. It is mission-driven, undercapitalized and attracts the attention of general partners, resulting in a high failure rate for other portfolio companies.

Traditional venture capital models may not have the incentive to invest in the longer periods that are essential to neuroscience innovation. It may not be possible to complete thorough and effective diligence in a swift market effort driven by fear of oversight.

Currently focusing on a small number of recognized winners in the portfolio to exclude other companies that need more operational support has a positive impact on the brain health sector and is unsatisfied. Consumers who can meet their needs and lead to the disappearance of companies that can bring dramatically advanced solutions to clinicians.

Innovative solutions are needed to reduce the risk of brain health technology market failure. A multi-faceted approach that spans investment, investment and governance prevents the field from falling into a valley of disillusionment and heading directly to the plateau of productivity.

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From an investment perspective, a thematic venture capital fund with domain expertise and skilled resources is important. Investment funds specializing in the field of brain health are emerging, including investment funds for dementia-related companies, human experience technology, neuroscience and education. Other investment models, such as venture studios that find and fund companies, can be particularly beneficial in the area of ​​brain health technology. The venture studio model has the unique advantage of working with co-founders to bring the best ideas into a great company, as one company explains.

An integrated investment model that includes venture studios, venture capital, and advisory capabilities may also be of great value to early-stage brain health technology companies. Other innovative financing strategies include venture philanthropy, public-private partners, and urgent discovery-based venture creation.

From an operational perspective, developing effective brain health managers is an important workforce innovation. These are individuals who have clinical, research, and business experience, as well as the creative thinking needed to navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of technology in brain health.

From a governance perspective, investors and clinical perspectives need to be aligned. By involving brain health experts and researchers in the diligent team of technology companies, complex neuroscience principles and black box algorithms can be advised, employees, and investors without relevant technical or clinical background. You can reduce information asymmetry, such as not being fully understood. It is also worth forming partnerships with research institutes, universities, investors, healthcare organizations, consumers and caregivers, as does Dallas-based Pegasus Park Biotech + and others. By optimizing privacy and security measures and demonstrating effectiveness through quality research, solutions can also be sought for reimbursement or addition to national prescription collections.

In the major social problems facing the world, it is essential to avoid the failure of the brain health market by proactively mitigating risk. A multifaceted approach that incorporates innovative investment and investment approaches and governance changes is important.

Erin Smith is an Atlantic Fellow of Brain Health Equity at the Global Brain Health Institute at the University of California, San Francisco and a Thiel Fellow at Stanford University. Mark Heinemeyer is the CEO of PRODEO, an executive services group for brain health technology. Harris A. Eyre is a co-leader of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Neuroscience-Inspired Policy Initiative, the PRODEO Institute, and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a member of Cohen’s Brain Health Nexus Founding Steering Committee. Veterans Bioscience, a free strategic advisor to the Paris-based HEKA Foundation.




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