Israeli startup uses AI to find best depression treatment

2019-10-23T09:16:33+00:00October 23rd, 2019|AI|0 Comments

Predictix by Taliaz aims to help psychiatrists match each patient with the most effective prescription.

Prescribing the right anti-depression medication often involves tedious trial and error. Your psychiatrist suggests one type of pill, but it does not work or has too many side effects. Therefore, you go on to the next medication and then another one until you finally find a prescription that seems to work. Meanwhile, the debilitating symptoms of depression continue.

Neuroscientist Dekel Taliaz found the entire drawn-out process to be, well, depressing. Therefore, together with his brother Oren, he set up a company bearing the siblings’ family name – Taliaz – to apply the latest in artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable psychiatrists to prescribe the right anti-depression medication the first time.

The Company has developed proprietary algorithms that, when given a series of inputs including DNA swabs for genetic data.  The data can include – a detailed mental-health history; information on the patient’s environment and his or her demographic background; and any already existing clinical data from the patient’s electronic medical record (EMR), can predict the efficacy (as well as any adverse effects) of current anti-depressants with up to 80 percent accuracy.  That is a significant improvement over what happens today, where some two-thirds of patients fail to get better following the first anti-depressant prescribed and another one-third quit their first-line treatment entirely.

According to WHO, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people of all ages.  At its worst, clinical depression can lead to suicide, which has become the second leading cause of death in 15- to 29-year-olds.

 Taliaz’s Predictix product compares the data it collects from patients with records from the US National Institutes of Health. Israel’s four HMOs and their affiliated hospitals have employed the same EMR platform for the past two decades. With 98% of the country’s population covered by full health insurance, some nine million additional records can potentially be used to improve Predictix’s AI.

Taliaz is already testing its service with a limited number of psychiatrists in Israel’s Maccabi HMO.  “Israel is a superpower in digital health,” Dekel Taliaz said.  He also said that Israeli physicians tend to be early adopters of new technology, Israelis “don’t like limits. We like to push the borders. That makes our culture more open to innovation.”

The biggest source of income for the company, which now has seven employees in its Tel Aviv offices, is the Israeli Ministry of Health, which gave Taliaz $670,000 to begin its implementation with Maccabi and has pledged another $7.5 million as the rollout continues.

Taliaz has another major client in Psychiatry-UK, Britain’s largest online psychiatry network. The partnership, announced in March, allows patients to complete their intake without leaving the house.

“Within days, our psychiatrists will have clear scientific guidance as to which anti-depressants are most likely to be effective, based on each patient’s unique genetic makeup and health record.”

Predictix has competition from another Israeli firm, Elminda. “We love them,” Taliaz says, somewhat surprisingly. “They’re addressing the same problem but with a different solution.”  Elminda monitors brainwaves to determine the right medication for patients – and not just for depression. “We share a lot of information with them,” Taliaz adds. “We hope in the future we’ll be able to work together on some projects.”

Like Elminda, Predictix is being adapted to work with other brain disorders. One of the grants Taliaz received from the IIA, for example, is earmarked for analyzing data from ADHD patients in order to make prescriptions that are more accurate.

“It’s still very early stages,” Taliaz says, “but the nice thing about using technology like artificial intelligence is that things that used to take years to research can now take months.”

Given Israel’s leadership in cannabis research, will marijuana-based medications become part of what Predictix suggests to psychiatrists? “Cannabis will enter this field along the way,” Taliaz says. “We’re interested in everything concerning the brain.”

Predictix is coming at a time when the increase in scientific knowledge is fast outstripping physicians’ abilities to process the new information. The Israeli government in 2018 established a nearly $300 million initiative to make anonymized data from Israel’s HMOs available to researchers, entrepreneurs and medical institutions.

“When you think about next-generation sequencing technology that will allow you to ‘speak’ with the whole human genome, it leads to a huge accumulation of data,” Taliaz says.  “How can a doctor deal with this huge amount of data? That is why my brother Oren and I founded this company. We saw the need for scientific analytical tools to organize all this data and provide doctors with action items they can use.”

Interested officials may connect with the Economic and Trade Department at the Consulate General of the State of Israel to South India, Bengaluru.  For further queries, contact:

Ms. Veshala Gajaraj,
Trade Officer
Email: veshalakshe.gajaraj@israeltrade.gov.il

 

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