NeuraLight wants to track ALS, Parkinson’s and more with a regular webcam –

The process of diagnosing and tracking the progression of neurological disorders is often lengthy and imprecise and involves examinations, hospital visits, and personal observations that experts must interpret on the spot. NeuraLight claims it’s built in a better way, one that just uses a regular webcam and can have a huge effect on how these conditions are handled. The company just raised $25 million to build the team and put the method in the hands of doctors.

The lack of standardization is a huge problem in the diagnosis and detection of neurological disorders: because they are so complex and often slow to develop, it is extremely difficult for a single approach to detect something like Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. to catch.

In fact, it is estimated that misdiagnoses are rife in the field, not because of a lack of accuracy by healthcare providers, but simply because of the degree of variability in the process. Now imagine you had a cohort of people diagnosed with a disorder, and as many as a quarter of them may not actually have it — how can you be sure that a treatment you’re testing is effective? This crisis of confidence in the data needs an objective measure to be mitigated, and that’s what Austin and Tel Aviv-based NeuraLight is building.

CEO Micha Breakstone, who sold his previous company Chorus for $575 million, met his co-founder Eddie Ben-Ami and was fascinated by the possibilities of his research.

“It’s kind of crazy, but there really aren’t any objective markers for neurological disorders. You can’t develop drugs for diseases that you can’t measure,” he said. “He had developed a technology that could extract these micro parameters from the eye, which indicates cognitive load.”

A meeting in an office with digital readings of a preson's face.

Image Credits: NeuraLight

This, along with other eye movements and statistics, has been associated with neurological disorders in numerous publications for years. But it has not been a useful technique for measuring the progress of a disease because it uses specialized equipment and expert analysis.

NeuraLight uses an ordinary standard webcam and applies modern image analysis techniques “to extract these, let’s call them sub-pixel or sub-millimeter signals, things that aren’t in one frame. We’ve found that we’re as accurate, if not more, than a professional gaze tracker costing tens of thousands of dollars,” said Breakstone. (“Which is insane,” he added.)

This could be used in clinical contexts for home neurological testing in the future, but that’s something that may have to wait for FDA approval and more testing. Fortunately, it can even be helpful before serious medical claims are made, because the company’s analysis of the ocular images can be applied retroactively to other data, such as past clinical trials. And pharmaceutical companies are happy to pay for that.

“We’re taking a page from Flatiron here; essentially we’re tagging data,” explains Breakstone. “For example, if we go and look at a cohort of a thousand people for Parkinson’s, and we know that 250 aren’t affected…if we just came in and tag the patients that we suspect don’t have it, the data can be redone.” analyzing it without being considered cherry-picking or p-hacking because it’s new data, you can greatly increase the odds of success without regulated claims.”

Much work has been done in this area, as eye movements have long been known as important indicators of brain health. But more detail in analysis can yield new results from existing studies, or lead to faster or better indicator detection in clinical situations.

A meeting in an office with digital readings of a preson's face.

A normal meeting at the NeuraLight office with everyone in normal shirts.

As before, there are no claims of diagnosis or treatment here, but as an unprecedented objective measure of neurological conditions, NeuraLight’s measurements can still help doctors diagnose and monitor these conditions.

Tracking in particular is a big problem. It’s hard enough these days to get someone to come to the hospital for tests, and much more so if it’s someone with a neurological condition that is getting worse. If the indicators of progress or successful treatment were visible through the user’s home webcam, as Breakstone imagines, “you could take our test twice a week instead of meeting someone once a quarter. With any standard Zoom call, you can get a full neurological evaluation just by participating in the call – without any incentives, just passive.”

That’s a long way off, but they’ve already tested hundreds of healthy volunteers for a control group and are about to begin studies to create a tool to detect ALS. For rapidly evolving variants of this (and other) disorder, discovering and starting treatment early, even a few months, is incredibly beneficial for results.

Trials and partnerships are also underway to build models for identifying signs of Parkinson’s, MS and Alzheimer’s, as well as the subtype.

The company raised $5.5 million last October and now has a $25MA round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, with participation from Breyer Capital, Samsung NEXT, VSC Ventures, Chris Mansi, David Golan and Lily Sarafan.

The money will help build the team, which Breakstone claimed was already world-class, and continue to build their infrastructure and product.

“Our end goal is to set a new standard for neurological disease, for progression, monitoring and diagnosis, but to start with pharma as a decision aid,” he said. “We’re on an urgent mission to make a real impact — this isn’t academic.”