The first job that MyCognition founder and chairman Keiron Sparrowhawk took in the medical science industry was testing the very strain of insulin that was keeping his diabetic father alive.
Even after all this time it is easy to see how that personal attachment to his work has driven everything he has done through his career in medical R&D and now in his work as pioneering entrepreneur in medical science industry.
His company MyCognition is currently pitching for funding to continue development of cognitive assessment tool MyCQ. The product uses a combination of unique psychometric tests and gamification to disrupt the ways we can measure cognitive health.
The aim is eventually to roll out these products to employers and large organisations to tackle everything from workplace stress to ineffectual leadership. As both a tool that assesses cognitive function and works as a springboard to developing therapies, it has the potential to add billions of pounds in value to businesses across the globe – as well as helping people suffering with cognitive impairment at any stage in life.
Sparrowhawk told Growth Business that, having worked with pharmaceuticals all of life, persuading people of the value of what is “essentially a video game” was one of the first challenges he faced as an entrepreneur.
But the MyCognition product suite differs from the majority of brain training programmes because it “takes people out of their comfort zone”, according to Sparrowhawk.
“The trouble with most of the products on the market is that people get to choose their activity so they end up only playing the games that they enjoy,” he said. “People often say that they do crosswords or chess and I say ‘great but that’s your strength. What are you doing about your weaknesses’”?
Concentrating on correcting weaknesses in cognitive performance is the key to the value of MyCognition. Sparrowhawk draws the analogy of a 100m runner who has sustained an injury to his/her left leg.
“The trainer wouldn’t just tell you to forget about that leg and build up your right knee so you can hop, he’d work on the area where there is that an underlying weakness,” he said.
So far the project has been almost entirely self-funded. The company is set to pitch at Tech Invest London on 18 June and is also going out with its first public funding later in the year.
Huge opportunity for medical technology
One of the great strengths of the product in terms of value, according to Sparrowhawk, is that “cognitive health is universal”.
“So regardless of your age, your race, your sex or culture it can be assessed in the same way,” he said. “Language is an issue but that’s only a simple production issue. So we have a product that can be used anywhere.
“So far we’ve used it in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, the US and it’s being trialled in Asia. So we have a product that’s scaleable from right now. It’s a very exciting opportunity.”
Digital technology and investment opportunities mean there is potential for great progress in medical technology, according to Sparrowhawk. Traditionally the pharmaceuticals have struggled to get into the psychiatric space because of a lack of understanding of both the solutions and financial values streams.
But he sees a way forward that means both the companies behind the solutions and the end users take away huge benefits. Rightly, he sees companies such as MyCogntion and “the good guys” of medical science and hopes others can follow suit.
“There’s a huge opportunity for the sector,” he said. “There are those who predict cognitive science alone will be valued in the region of $6bn by 2020. But we believe it could be as big as 30bn 10 years from now.”
“Additionally this is an effective way to take on the challenges of an ageing population. We have right-wing politicians in the US saying that after a certain age they’re not going to provide treatment any more, which is a form of euthanasia. Now with these products we can really look at treating these people rather than giving up on them.”
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