Cambridge Brain Sciences brings cognitive function assessment into the 21st century – as biomarkers become more integrated with Longevity cognition is key.
Monitoring and assessing cognitive activity plays a key role in many aspects of the Longevity spectrum. Traditionally, this function has been assessed using pen and paper tests developed through decades of scientific research. One company has taken this knowledge and reimagined it for the digital age.
Toronto-based software firm Cambridge Brain Sciences has created a web-based platform for the assessment of cognitive function. The company’s flagship product, CBS Health is used by healthcare practitioners and researchers around the world to obtain accurate, quantified, and scientifically-validated measures of cognition.
CBS Health includes 12 tasks of measuring core brain functions that are key to quality of life (such as short-term memory, reasoning, concentration, and verbal ability). It provides an engaging assessment experience for patients, as well as a flexible and simple interface for practitioners, with insightful cognitive reporting (see a sample report here).
We caught up recently with Cambridge Brain Sciences’ CEO, Marc Lipton, to discuss his vision for the future of brain health assessment…
Longevity Technology: How can your technology be applied to support people in extended healthspan?
Marc Lipton: CBS Health—our web-based platform for the assessment of cognitive function—can play a key role in healthy ageing. Using CBS Health, healthcare professionals can now easily quantify and monitor an individual’s brain health in core areas of cognitive function (memory, reasoning, verbal ability and concentration) over time, helping them develop a comprehensive and longer-term view of how an individual’s brain health is changing. Armed with longitudinal objective data, the healthcare professional is now able to better manage potential changes and provide a pro-active level of care.
Longevity Technology: Have you aligned with any Longevity or anti-aging groups yet?
Marc Lipton: We have numerous executive health and wellness clinics currently using our services who cater to older populations to longitudinally track the cognitive function of their patient groups. They include our assessment service as part of a comprehensive annual physical. Results are then reviewed with psychologists to determine the appropriate next step.
Longevity Technology: What is your perspective on the education vs brain training debate?
Marc Lipton: As my colleague Dr. Owen says, education is paramount. Learning about the world and learning “how to learn” are both absolutely crucial for a child’s development. But what has become clear over the last few years is that “Brain Training” in the sense that most members of the public think about it, does not make you any smarter. You can’t just play a few video games and expect an increase in your general cognitive performance. Of course, if you practise something then you will get better at it … that’s how we learn, whether it be facts about the world, a foreign language or a musical instrument.
But the crucial scientific discovery over the past few years has been that through “brain training” you will learn to get better at those specific brain training games, but you won’t get any better at anything else.
Longevity Technology: What role does education have to play in later-life with regards to cognitive abilities?
Marc Lipton: There is good evidence that continuing to remain “cognitively active” in later life is beneficial, whether that be by learning new skills (a new language or a new musical instrument) or through more traditional forms of ‘education’. But traditional forms of learning can be hard as one gets older. That is why other factors, such as remaining social, spending time with friends, eating well and exercising are equally important for maintaining a healthy brain as one gets older.
Longevity Technology: How does what you’re doing play a role maintaining cognitive health and are you looking to develop products toward this?
Marc Lipton: We are intervention agnostic and strictly act as an assessment platform solution. Given the wide variety of healthcare verticals we serve (mental health, brain injury recovery, and general health and wellness groups), we rely on the expertise of healthcare professionals using our assessment service to develop the appropriate interventions for their patients.
We have already engaged in multiple licensing opportunities. We have a secure and simple integration path, as well as APIs, that allow other platforms to integrate with our assessment services.
Longevity Technology: How often and at what age should people be tested?
Marc Lipton: We do not dictate assessment frequency deferring to healthcare professionals to choose the best cadence for assessing or re-assessing their patients depending on a wide range of factors (e.g., age, health history, genetics, etc.).
Our normative database derived from the millions of times our tasks have been completed ranges from 6 years to 85 years. Certainly, the more data points you gather throughout your lifetime, the more information at your disposal to make informed decisions regarding your health. We are all susceptible to events that can have significant impacts on our brain health — whether you’re a youth playing sports at risk of suffering from a concussion or an aging adult experiencing some cognitive decline, knowing where your “normal” is, and how much you have deviated from normal after an event or over time, can provide useful insights that directly impact your care plan and ideally speed of recovery.
Longevity Technology: Where does the company stand today, and what are your primary objectives and next key milestones?
Marc Lipton: We are a private company and do not disclose our revenue. However, we are very pleased to share that we tripled our healthcare revenue in 2019 and our objective is to triple again in 2020. We have over 600 locations throughout the world using our solution with our largest presence of customers, not surprisingly, given their population, is the United States.
Longevity Technology: Will you always be a B2B clinical business or will you step into direct to consumer?
Marc Lipton: We do not currently have plans to enter the B2C market. However, in service to our vision of becoming the standard measurement for brain health, we believe we can enter those markets indirectly by licensing our assessment service to leading providers not only serving consumers, but other relevant groups and industries
Longevity Technology: What is your current funding situation?
Marc Lipton: Our largest investors are the founders followed by a small group of investors, all of which are well known to the founders. We are currently cashflow positive and are well positioned to fund our future growth. However, we may raise additional capital later this year to accelerate our growth plans.
Longevity Technology: How did Cambridge Brain Sciences get started?
Marc Lipton: The origins of Cambridge Brain Sciences date back to the late 1980s when a young post doctorate, Dr. Adrian Owen at Cambridge University, began coding paper and pen cognitive tasks such that they could be administered on a computer. This allowed him to use tasks in functional MRI studies as well as do large scale studies involving tens of thousands of participants. Over the past 25 years, these tasks have been taken over 10 million times and published in over 300 peer reviewed studies. In 2015, I was introduced Dr. Owen in Toronto and thus began the journey to take the technology beyond academic studies and into commercial healthcare applications.