Meet the Start-up: Sonde Health’s voice biomarker

Vocal biomarker monitors changes in the voice to detect mental and physical health conditions.

Could our voice prove to be the “ultimate biomarker” when it comes to the diagnosis of major health conditions? Boston-based start-up Sonde Health certainly thinks so. The company is developing a voice-based technology platform to measure health when a person speaks. Sonde’s vocal biomarker platform is being developed to try and change the way mental and physical health is screened and monitored, by detecting disease using information obtained from an individual’s voice on devices, such as smartphones and smart speakers.

Having recently secured $16 million in Series A financing, the company has just announced David Liu as CEO. Liu comes to the company from enterprise healthcare technology company Quartet, where he served as president and COO. We spoke to him to find out more about where Sonde is today and where it goes from here.

Longevity.Technology: Congratulations on your recent appointment. What are your immediate priorities as CEO?
David Liu: Thank you! At Sonde we believe we’re entering a new phase of how we – humanity – interact with technology: through voice. With the exponential growth of speech recognition usage through ubiquitous voice-assisted smart devices, Sonde is asking: What can your voice tell you about your health? Our mission is to unlock the voice as a vital sign and a meaningful predictor of health. Sonde enables non-invasive, early detection and better tracking of people’s fluctuating health states so they can improve their health.

We’ve spent several years quietly in R&D mode developing our technology and platform which is based on our intellectual property, as well as IP licensed from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. My focus is on building a clear path to bring our technology to people everywhere. This means scaling our team, building lasting commercial partnerships, and delivering a superior value proposition for both the healthcare and wellness spaces so people can improve their health.
David Liu CEO of Sonde
Longevity.Technology: What is your commercialisation model?
David Liu: We are a new enterprise SaaS technology company, and we envision our strategy will focus on licensing our platform to companies who build software and hardware in the health/wellness and healthcare industries. In addition to enterprise licensing fees for our commercial technology, we are considering exploring potential service fees for partners.

Longevity.Technology: What are your key business milestones over the next 12 months?
David Liu: Build an amazing team, product and emerging business model. We will strive to hire people who are not only great at what they do, but are the people everyone wants to work with. We will continue to improve our voice biomarker health detection capability and add several additional health conditions. Lastly, we will begin commercial relationships to bring a clear health-related value proposition to voice-enabled products people use every day.

Longevity.Technology: We’re very interested in biomarkers. Can you shed some light on the science that enables disease to be detected in this way?
David Liu: It’s helpful to think of vocal biomarkers as merely medical signs that come from features of your voice, just as blood cholesterol is a well-known biomarker of risk for coronary heart disease. What Sonde does begins with the objective characterization of involuntary acoustic changes that happen when changes in health occur. We understand that changing disease physiology alters a person’s acoustic features. Our platform is designed to sense and analyze subtle changes in the voice (pitch, intensity, spectral features, vocal tract coordination, etc.) to create a range of persistent brain, muscle and respiratory health measurements that provide a more complete picture of health in seconds.

Longevity.Technology: What kind of progress have you made with partners on this technology?
David Liu: Sonde is currently collaborating with the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute in Australia to create the first mobile device-based automatic assessment of depression from acoustic speech. We’ve also entered into collaborative partnerships with leading institutions such as UMass Memorial Medical Center, Yale University, Partners Massachusetts General Hospital and multiple other ex-US hospitals, clinics and academic medicine centers for the purpose of furthering our leading research.

In terms of commercial partnerships, we are seeing promising use cases for Sonde across both consumer-facing health and wellness applications, as well as clinical healthcare applications.

Longevity.Technology: What health conditions are you focusing on to begin with?
David Liu: We are initially focused on depression/emotional resilience, sleepiness/exhaustion and motor incoordination, with several other health conditions being explored in the pipeline. We are beyond excited about our growth trajectory and the use of our vocal biomarker platform to improve human health.

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