MindXSciences, a new startup founded on science developed at Indiana University seeks to enable precision medicine by commercializing the first objective tests for mental health issues, including suicide risk, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression as well as for pain. Historically assessing these conditions has been difficult to assess and measure—the team in Indiana aims to change that.
The Key Challenge
Matthew Neff, co-founder, president, and CEO of MindX Sciences notes “there is no objective method to assess pain in current clinical practice.” Anyone that has experienced pain knowns that when they visit their physician they are asked to “rate” or “rank” the pain on a qualitative scale from say 1 to 10—e.g. 5 being uncomfortable, 7 painful, etc. The Indiana research team has been driven by the fact that we have no real alternative to objectively and systematically assess and classify levels of pain, or for that matter, mental health conditions such as depression.
A Massive Problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20.4% of American adults—or 66 million people—suffer from chronic pain. Representing a problem of staggering proportions, the costs imposed on society ripple throughout from productivity to patient quality of life. One study revealed chronic pain could cost the U.S. $635 billion annually.
Enter MindX Sciences
Based in Indianapolis, the company founder, Alexander B Niculescu is Professor of Psychiatry and has spent over 15 years of research in the areas of blood biomarkers for suicide risk, depression, pain and pain longevity, PTSD and other indications. MindX has licensed the intellectual property from Indian University Innovation and Commercialization Office.
In some ways the mission is quite simple, reports Dr. Niculescu, also a practicing psychiatrist, who seeks to help doctors do a better job of saving and improving lives. Dr. Niculescu notes “Suicide is a growing epidemic, and so are pain and opioids.” He continued “PTSD is underdiagnosed and undertreated in both civilian and military populations. One in four people will suffer from depression in their lifetime. Mental health can directly influence aging and longevity. These are all targets we want to sequentially address, and we have put together a first-class team to do that. It’s very important to bring psychiatry into the 21st century—to make it on par with other medical specialties—because, in the end, everything we are or do is reflected in the mind. If your mind is helped to function well, your whole life is happier and longer.”
The Indiana University-based team have put together an impressive array of company backers. It is not disclosed how much capital has been raised but the advisors include some prominent names, including:
- Don Brown (Indiana tech entrepreneur who founded Interactive Intelligence Group (acquired by California-based Genesys for $1.4 billion)
- Dr. Anantha Shekhar, associate dean for research Indiana University School of Medicine
- Dr. Jerold Chun, Neuroscientist at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
- Kim Janda, professor of chemistry and immunology at Scripps Research Institute, San Diego