Google Maps for the Brain
Nearly 33% of the EU and US population are affected by brain diseases. Currently patients are diagnosed only after clinical presentation of the symptoms, when the disease has taken its course and destroyed significant portion of the brain.
There are currently more than 600 brain diseases, and most of them are still incurable.
Significant time and resources are allocated to research and development of many new therapies for brain diseases. Drug discovery and development, from an initial disease treatment concept to a new drug application, is a complex, lengthy and expensive process. The timeline from initial concept to New Drug Application can range from 12 to 15 years. The cost of developing a new drug has been rising, with a current estimate of €2.35 billion ($2.6 billion), including the cost of failures. The high percentage of drug testing failures causes pharmaceutical companies to lose more than €72 billion ($80 billion) per year.
In addition, another major problem in the design of clinical trials is the lack of accurate patient profiling - even very promising drugs with positive effects in animal studies fail in human trials. We most recently saw the Alzheimer’s disease Phase 3 trial failures of Alzheimer 3 APS and Flurizan MPC-‐7869. The Flurizan trial cost was estimated at $150 million.
The pharmaceutical companies are faced with two great difficulties when evaluating new treatments:
The main subjacent problems are:
New in vivo imaging technology as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, provides a unique look inside the brain, without any harm to the patients. The issue however is that these images are complex, often with poor quality, and rely heavily on advanced software systems that require experts to run them. We can see the brain, well protected by the skull, and some of its details, but we are lacking fine information of the precise state of the brain tissue.
We use the diffusion MRI image sequencing that allows reconstructing the brain connectivity and quantification of white matter tissue properties. In combination with other conventional MRI imaging techniques it lets us to capture and measure microstructural properties of the brain tissue and provide, non invasively, a uniquely detailed 3D neural map of the brain, allowing quantitative measuring, better categorization of patients and efficacy measuring, and cost-effective data management.
Our product, CloudN, is a unique cloud-based 3D imaging data analysis and quantification without the need for any investment in data processing, storage hardware, or software. The platform is able to receive medical images acquired in preclinical and clinical trials from Pharmaceutical companies and/or specialists, hospitals and imaging centers. These images are then processed by the state‐of‐the‐art algorithms developed in Mint Labs that are automatically employed in order to identify patterns and anomalies related to clinical outcomes. CloudN allows for non‐subjective in vivo quantification of brain structure and circuits, reduced time and costs in R&D, and accelerated development of new therapies for neurological diseases.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain is useful in the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), an inflammatory, demyelinating condition of the central nervous system (CNS) that is generally considered to be autoimmune in nature. Neurological impairment of MS patients is poorly associated with the lesion load observed on conventional MRI scans, partly due to the low sensitivity of conventional MRI in detection of grey-matter and white-matter damage. In order to overcome these limitations new MRI techniques have been developed.
Globally, around 36 million people have Alzheimer's and other dementias, 6 million people have Parkinson and 2.5 million have multiple sclerosis. With increased life expectancy and aging population, these numbers are expected to double by 2030.
Additionally, the development of new medical treatment is extremely expensive. Clinical trials from testing on animal models (mouse, rats) to testing on a large group of patients can amount up to 70% of the total drug development cost – about €1.1 billion per drug ($1.2 billion). Patient recruitment represents by average 21% of the clinical trials expenditure, that is €23.7 million ($25.6 million). The difficulty of diagnosing patients at an early stage and the associated costs of patient recruitment for new treatment development create an insurmountable barrier with existing solutions.
Mint Labs can already operate as a pre-clinical services provider. That market is €730 million; but the greatest value of our platform will be for phases 2 and 3 of clinical trials since their goal is to evaluate the efficacy in groups of patients receiving the treatment or a placebo. Our quantification provides an objective way to evaluate this efficacy. After Q4 2015 we will start moving into the clinical trial market, which only for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis is over €4,000 million
The founders both hold PhD degrees in medical image analysis and visualization, specifically applied to neuroimaging – fundamental building blocks of the developed products. They developed a visualization and image processing software for the virtual dissection of white matter structures of the brain. Mint Labs' cloud-based system employs proprietary software tools to integrate thousands of images and data from a patient and creates a specific detailed 3D map of the brain. The complex algorithms are hosted in the cloud, powered by our partner Google. We use Leap Motion as an intuitive form of interaction with this 3D maps. This gives the advantage of allowing the doctor to interact and visualize patient images right at point of care, at the operating room. We use Unity3D to put together visualization and the interaction device.
Our platform supports the R&D work of several projects with top scientists and institutions in Barcelona:
We have developed several new proprietary algorithms. The first patented algorithm is for the multi-modal visualization and interaction with the 3D complex maps of brain connections. By using a 3D motion infrared controller (such as the Leap Motion) we have patented gestures and visualizations for exploration and interaction of complex brain data that captures different brain properties encoded by tissue contrast captured with the different MRI sequences employed in the acquisition.
The second patent is for the enhancement of poor quality/resolution images (provided by typical 1.5 Tesla MRI scanners in hospitals worldwide). When a scan is performed by a scanner with a lower magnetic field (as most scanners worldwide are), one known problem is the image quality or the noise present in the images. Our patent performs not only de-noising but also enhancement of the data for better clinical use.
Mint Labs is raising 500,000€:
The estimated value of the company is at €3.3M, already backed by investment offers in California, Boston, and New York. Value gain is estimated as follows:
2014 - Mint Labs raised €240,000 with the initial financing pre‐seed round being backed with €160,000 of long-term debt, which came from soft loans provided by the Spanish Government (ENISA and Institut Catala de Finances – ICF) to fund technology-based companies. These loans are offered with 3‐5 years of grace period and below average interest rates. Wayra academy (a Telefonica innitiave) invested €80,000 in form of a convertible note.
2015 - A seed round of €500,000 after reaching the first sales to consolidate platform growth in EU (especially Spain, UK and Germany) and US markets. The company is in negotiations with business angels to raise the initially required €500,000. 150K is being raised for this round via Capital Cell
2017 - Series A round of €3,000,000 to consolidate growth in clinical trial areas and worldwide scaling. The expected track record and volume of sales will ensure the attractiveness for Venture Capital firms to invest. We already have been raising our network of VCs, and are updating them on our progress.
Mint Labs' exit strategy is via the acquisition by a cloud based medical imaging storage company (Lexmark, Teracon, Toshiba Medical), an MRI vendor (Philips, Siemens, GE) or an information company (Google, IBM).
IBM for instance, is moving aggressively to expand the utility of its Watson artificial intelligence platform. It is planning to acquire Merge Healthcare, a RIS/PACS and advanced visualization developer, for a total of $1 billion in cash.
Some notable references in the field:
The founders of Mint Labs bring together the experience and knowledge in the several areas covered: medical image processing, medical visualization, mobile solutions, and software engineering. They have been working together in the area of brain imaging for more than 9 years, with joint publication record.
PAULO RODRIGUES , PH .D.
Years of work Experience: 10
Short CV: Paulo was born in 1981 in Vila Franca, Portugal. After 5 year Licenciate studies, with merits, in computer science and systems engineering at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal, he worked in an innovative IT mobility company. In 2006, he started his PhD research in the BMIA group of the department of Biomedical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. His research focused on developing novel tools for the virtual dissection of the human brain white matter structures. After the PhD work, he held a software engineering position, for 1 year, in a successful Dutch IT company, leader in advanced planning and scheduling solutions, based on an inspiring general solution. He was a research associate position at the Department of Personality, Faculty of Psychology, Universitat Barcelona, Spain, where he exploited neuroimaging techniques to understand the neurobiological mechanisms in cognitive functions and disorders. He enrolled and was a finalist at the BioEmprenedorXXI program, in order to obtain more knowledge on business management and entrepreneurship. He led the successful application to the Wayra Academy program (accelerator of Telefonica). At the moment he is the CEO and co-founder of Mint Labs and has been awarded the MIT Technology Review Innovative Entrepreneur under 35.
VESNA PRCHKOVSKA , PH .D.
Years of work Experience: 9
Short CV: Vesna was born in 1982 in Bitola, Macedonia. She studied 5 year engineering studies in computer science, informatics and control systems at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at University Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. In 2006 she graduated with honors. From July 2006 she started her PhD research in the Biomedical Image Analysis (BMIA) group of the department of Biomedical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology. Her research focus was processing and visualization of high angular resolution diffusion imaging (HARDI) data. She published various papers for improvements in the acquisition, processing and visualization pipeline in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and HARDI. From December 2011 till February 2012, she was a visiting researcher at University Sans Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia, where she established important collaborations between Penang (Malaysia), Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and Barcelona (Spain). She recently finished her Marie Curie fellowship, where she was holding a research associate position at the Neuroimmunology group, part of IDIBAPS – Hospital Clinic research center, in Barcelona Spain. During her fellowship she was exploring neuroimaging techniques for the study of neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. She has experience in European public funding programs, and she has successfully mentored and supervised several students and MSc projects. She was a visiting researcher at Harvard Medical School in 2014, and she is still keeping the collaboration. She is a co-founder and CSO of Mint Labs.
Years of work experience: 15
Short CV: Landon was born in 1983 in Boston Massachusetts. He studied business management at Suffolk University. He founded and managed two private companies (one international import/export company) with successful exits. He worked for Cypress Financial Group for 3 years in financial services. He specialized in finance (mutual funds, stocks, bonds), holding a series 6 securities license as well as a 2-‐15 insurance license.
Our flagship product, CloudN delivers a cloud based, 3D imaging data analysis and quantification without the need for any investment in data processing, storage hardware, or software.
CloudN addresses the critical issue of better utilizing multi-‐modality imaging (MRI, CT, etc.) without the need for any additional capital expense. The platform is able to receive medical images acquired in preclinical and clinical trials from Pharma and/or specialists, hospitals and imaging centres. These images are then processed by the state-‐of-‐the-‐art algorithms developed in Mint Labs that are automatically employed in order to identify patterns and anomalies related to clinical outcomes.
Currently, there are no tools able to emulate the capabilities of analysis and prediction as that of our product. This allows us to position ourselves as the new technology standard for monitoring and diagnosis of neurological disorders.
The analysis and diagnosis of neurological diseases will be directed at neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis, as they are extremely complicated to diagnose at an early stage and can benefit the most from our imaging quantification tools. First, we approach specialists and organizations working on the study and development of new treatments for these disorders (with a need for quantification tools to evaluate brain changes and differences among patients e.g., placebo versus medicine). They are our first clients and the first stakeholders in the R&D pipeline (see section 3.1). As a second stage, we will approach the clinical trials stakeholders (pharma, CROs) to support clinical trial stages evaluating the efficacy of new treatments in patients.
In the next development phase, the platform will provide knowledge-‐based diagnostic information based on “Big Data” analysis of acquired images and related clinical information. This will be performed by monitoring over time different data as brain imaging analysis, sleep patterns or cognitive abilities. The analysis of the interrelationships between these factors is expected to allow diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases years in advance compared to current techniques and technologies.
We have 2 provisional patents to protect our different algorithms developed within the company (filed January 2015) and we expect to file them in Q3 of 2015.
Foreseeable addressable clinical trial market of €13B, with focus on specific neurological diseases, and clinical trials phases 2, 3. We will focus initially on AD, PD and MS as a market of €4B.
We are the first multi‐modal imaging cloud platform, focused on the brain. We provide medical data management (data privacy compliant) and advanced (proprietary) quantification.
Competitors are simple cloud storage (MIM cloud, Calgary Scientific) without our advanced image quantification capabilities; or imaging expert tools targeted at imaging experts (Olea or FEI).
We can divide Mint Labs competitors in three groups:
Imaging informatics platform
Mint Labs will work closely with R&D organizations of international prestige to validate the analytics and predictive power of the platform. Once the technology is validated the company expects to use its own sales and reputation gained through the collaborations with leading research groups in order to attract the first customers between the clinical trials stakeholders (pharmaceutical companies, CROs, patient recruitment companies).
From the beginning the focus of the company is international, although there will be a special emphasis on the European and North American markets, as this is where the company has a larger network.
Mint Labs current focus (during 2015) is to grow the following in the pre-clinical stage market by specific marketing strategy, as presence in scientific and medical symposiums (ISMRM, RSNA, MICCAI, etc.). We will also conduct several research projects (in collaboration with top scientific institutes) with great PR potential: for instance the ‘brain of success’ pinpointing the brain areas related to personality features in entrepreneurs minds/brains, together with Hospital Clinic (Barcelona), Wayra Academy (Telefonica startup accelerator) and the Center for Advanced Brain Imaging (CABI), Atlanta, GA, US.
Approach: The main sales tool in this phase is the ‘trial credits’. We reach specialists through online offers of trial credits (e.g. free 10 GB of storage and 20 processing credits) through professional channels (linkedin, twitter, academia, research gate, etc.), and through own sales force with presence in scientific and medical conferences. Specialists are also instrumental to expand to the respective organizations (and increase use base).
Objective: By growing our user base, and having more data in the platform, we also derive the metrics necessary to adjust the value proposition for phase 2 -‐ the amount of time and costs reduced by the
accurate quantification/monitoring of patients; the amount of cost reduction is provided by using our cloud platform brain quantification.
Leveraging on the network of prescribers and influencers (specialists and organizations conducting studies and analysis of patients with neurological diseases) we will attract the first clinical trial customers. We expect to have the first pilots with pharma companies by the Q3 of 2015.
Other key aspect will be working with patient organizations, as the EPDA (European Association of Parkinson) since they are usually a source for recruitment of patients for medical tests and could exercise prescribers between different actors in the clinical trials sector.
Finally, Mint Labs will attend major conferences in neurological diseases, (e.g. AD/PD congress, International Stroke Conference, etc.) to deepen their knowledge of the industry and network with other actors involved.
Mint Labs approach to market passes by 2 phases: first focusing on supporting R&D of studies and analysis working on understanding the brain and neurological diseases; second supporting clinical trials evaluating new treatments for neurological diseases. First phase provides the validation and the referrals necessary to enter the clinical trial market.
The following scheme illustrates the go-‐to-‐market stages, distinguishing the different segments (parallel to the clinical trial phases) we will be addressing.
We will start by focusing on the pre-clinical market. This comprises of specialists that are developing new therapies for neurological diseases (neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, neuroscientists).
They have access to the patients and gather medical images and data to explore and validate their hypothesis on the function (and malfunction) of the brain. By approaching the individual specialists, we build the recognition and validation of our platform and products.
Having the specialists and research groups committed, we can move to establish a recurrent deal with the R&D organizations conducting studies and analysis of patients with neurological diseases. Biotech companies are also potential clients (e.g. iproteos.com researching new protein compound for schizophrenia) as they require quantification tools to evaluate the performance of their treatment, typically in animal models (mice, rats).
● Non-subjective in vivo quantification of brain structure and circuits
● Reduced computational and storage costs - no need to invest in creating and upgrading a large group of computers (local cluster), and no need to install and maintain software since everything is accessible within the browser
● Reduced time and costs in R&D of new therapies, with faster results from the analysis, due to optimized processing pipelines in the cloud
● Accelerated development of biomarkers for neurological diseases, with reproducible pipelines and publishing/sharing of results within the team and consortiums.
Having the specialists and R&D organizations committed, we can move to establish initial clients within the clinical trial segment. Here we consider clinical trial stakeholders such as: Pharmaceutical companies (e.g. Novartis, Merck, Pfizer), contract research organization (CROs) and clinical trials recruitment companies.
The main factors of purchase will be, first, to have a greater level of detail on brain changes and all parameters monitored during a clinical trial. This would shorten the clinical testing of new treatments, thus reducing development costs and time to market. Furthermore, the cost is reduced with patient recruitment, since the average cost of each patient recruited for clinical trials is € 60,000 ($ 64,400), while the company expected to charge a fee of € 15,000 ($ 16,100).
The greatest expected value of our platform will be for phases 2 and 3 of clinical trials, since their goal is to evaluate the efficacy in groups of patients receiving the treatment or a placebo. Our quantification provides an objective way to evaluate this efficacy.
As a reference case, lets consider Alzheimer’s disease clinical trial design:
Mint Labs platform will be increasingly used, firstly in pre-clinical stage (specialists and R&D organizations) providing a stable growing revenue. As validation and referrals occur, we will approach clinical trial stage, first conducting a pilot (Q3 of 2015), and then supporting first trials.
If you would like to know more details about our financial projections, do not hesitate to contact us.
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Mint Labs is raising 500.000€:
The estimated value of the company is at 3M, already backed by investment offers in California. Value gain is estimated as follows:
Mint Labs' return strategy is via acquisition by cloud based medical imaging storage (Lexmark, Teracon, Toshiba Medical, MRI vendor (Phillips, Siemens, GE) or information company (Google).
As a reference, here are some similar exits in 2014 and 2015: