Cambridge Cognition Holdings plc (LON:COG), the neuroscience digital health company, has today announced that it has been awarded £0.3m of R&D funding by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to develop a novel digital health system which will elicit and automatically analyse pain-related signals in human speech.
This pioneering new project will see Cambridge Cognition develop a digital health system for objective measurement of pain based on signals in a person’s voice. It follows the Company successfully demonstrating the feasibility of automated verbal cognitive assessments on consumer voice platforms at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2017 as detailed in the Company announcement made on 7 June 2017.
Chronic pain affects around 1 in 3 people worldwide. In addition to the physical and emotional burden it brings, the financial cost to society is huge, currently estimated at more than €200 billion per annum in Europe and $150 billion per annum in the USA.
While many painkillers are available, they do not work for everyone and often have undesirable side effects. One reason it is difficult to develop better pain treatments is because there is no external way of measuring pain, other than by asking an individual to subjectively rate how much pain they feel.
The system being developed with Innovate UK funding will provide a non-invasive, inexpensive means of accurately monitoring levels of pain by combining artificial intelligence technology and cognitive neuroscience.
The system, based on automatic speech recognition, is expected to provide an extremely cost-effective tool in the development of new pain treatments, and ultimately help doctors to more effectively manage patients, reducing the global economic burden of chronic pain.
It further establishes the Company’s strategy of combining consumer electronics and sophisticated analytics to automate the precise measurement of brain function, following the Company’s recent demonstrations using the Apple Watch and Amazon Echo.
Initial products for the clinical assessment of pain-associated voice biomarkers could be made available by Cambridge Cognition as early as 2019, providing highly scalable and deployable in-person or remote assessments, via a phone, website or internet-enabled devices.
Jenny Barnett, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Cambridge Cognition Holdings plc, said: “We are pleased to have secured the support of Innovate UK for this important and innovative project. This project will combine the Company’s unique expertise in automating clinical testing procedures with the fast-moving technological fields of automatic speech recognition, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“Pain is currently only measured through subjective self-reports in both healthcare and clinical trials. This project will be extremely scientifically innovative in developing an entirely novel and objective voice-based biomarker, and an automated digital procedure for pain assessment to help tackle one of modern healthcare’s biggest challenges.
“There is great potential here to work with our pharmaceutical partners in clinical development programmes for new treatments and as a means of personalising pain medication and rationalising healthcare spend on new pain treatments globally.”