Cognitive data: How Senescence and Savonix are bringing digital expertise to brain health trials

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Senescence Life Sciences is using Savonix Mobile to assess the cognitive function of the participants in its clinical trials. ©Getty Images
Senescence Life Sciences is using Savonix Mobile to assess the cognitive function of the participants in its clinical trials. ©Getty Images

Related tags Cognitive health Supplements AI digital mobile apps

Cognitive health supplement firm Senescence Life Sciences has teamed up with US-based digital platform Savonix to work on clinical studies of its botanical cognitive health supplements.

Senescence, which is based in Singapore, was a finalist​ at the first NutraIngredients-Asia Awards​ last year, and conducted its first trial with Savonix several years ago.

Founder Dr Shawn Watson told NutraIngredients-Asia​ that the two companies have another two clinical trials in the pipeline, which would involve participants supplemented with Senescence products, after which their cognitive function would be tested via Savonix Mobile to determine their efficacy.

Currently, the company has two products, EDGE, designed to support the cognitive function of users aged 30 to 55, and REVIVE, to fight age-related cognitive decline.The supplements come in capsule form, and are made with ingredients such as Korean ginseng, Centalla asiatica​, alpha-lipoic acid and selenium.

CEO Mylea Charvat, a neuropsychologist by training, founded Savonix using her expertise in neuropsychological assessments, which she translated onto a digital platform to launch the Savonix Mobile app.

Using machine learning to gather insights from data on cognitive health and its link to biomarkers and diseases like dementia and diabetes, the firm touts Savonix Mobile as being able to deliver an "accurate, actionable, accessible and affordable mobile assessment of brain health"​.

The app uses a series of digitised versions of internationally recognised gold standard neurocognitive tests on Android and iOS operating system supported by a web-based clinical data dashboard with integrated analytics.

It accounts not only for the user's age and certain lifestyle factors, but also factors such as device type, screen lag time, and average response time by mechanic — swiping or tapping — based on age group.

Furthermore, the app employs 3D technology to mimic pen-and-paper test conditions with multiple psychomotor conditions, such as tapping, choice-based selection, dragging and dropping, and scrolling and drawing.

It allows users to get an accurate reading of their cognitive performance in a mere 45 minutes, as opposed to traditional tests, which can take a few hours and are usually expensive.

So far, Savonix has collected data on over 4,500 users in the US and China, through its partnerships with different academic institutions.

Charvat told NutraIngredients-Asia ​that with the latest round of funding, the firm will expand its platform in a number of ways.

"This summer, we will add a delayed spatial memory test, and we have plans to further personalise reporting and support diagnostic decision making and care planning.  We are also working on several disease-defining studies and projects that we will announce at a later time."

Proving the intangible

Watson said: "There are many companies doing something similar, but we found Savonix to be the leader among those we looked at.

"This was critically important for us — if we had chosen the wrong cognitive assessment system, we would be testing for the wrong things even if our products did work.

"What's interesting is that Savonix is starting to explore one area in which cognitive health research is lacking: the ability to track the effectiveness of brain health supplements."

He explained that consumers tended not to be able to feel a significant difference in cognitive ability despite taking brain health supplements regularly over an extended period of time unless those supplements also acted as stimulants, which usually produce much faster and more noticeable effects.

"We know that clinically, our products work. But as a consumer, it's sometimes tough to notice. You don't wake up after two months on our product and realise you have better executive function.

"You may notice that you sleep better and your memory is improved, but you may not recognise some of the more nuanced improvements — such as spatial memory and your ability to orientate in a particular space — even if they've increased dramatically. So it helps to be able to see the details broken down in a clinical assessment app like Savonix Mobile."

Commercial potential

Watson also said there was potential for Senescence supplements to be recommended as part of Savonix's personalised treatment plans for users.

These plans are on the horizon for Savonix, which recently closed a US$9.6m Series A extension round of funding for product development and corporate growth, bringing its total Series A financing to US$14.7m.

Led by new investors Fusion Fund and Wavemaker Partners (Draper Venture Network), with participation from DEFTA Partners and existing investors Rethink Impact and DigiTx Partners, the additional funding is expected to accelerate Savonix’s growth and market expansion in the US and Asia.

Charvat said: "The additional funding will also enable us to further develop and add additional features to Savonix Mobile, to better assess, track and monitor an individual's cognitive health and to build personalised treatment plans to prevent and manage cognitive decline."

Watson said the recommendation of Senescence products via the firm's partnership with Savonix was "a goal we want to move towards"​.

"From using Savonix Mobile in our initial trials, we've shown that the people who took our supplements displayed improved brain function, so I think we're moving in that direction."

Continued credibility in cognitive categories

He further revealed that Senescence was looking at entering specific categories for cognitive health, one of them being e-sports.

"The cognitive challenges related to professional video gamers are quite unique, and there's no solution out there for them yet. It's a cognitive arena we believe we have a major edge in, and the market is exploding, so it presents a great opportunity for us."

The company is also planning expansion in North America and South East Asia. Its products have already been approved in Canada, and it is targeting the US next.

In Singapore and Myanmar, the products are sold at GP clinics​, which Watson believes cements the firm's credibility.

"We're really good at talking to doctors and scientists, and selling through doctors establishes credibility. In a market like Singapore, very few brain health supplements are sold through doctors, and ours is one of them, so it builds our credibility in the marketplace."

In Thailand, however, it has secured its first B2C partner, health and wellness group PEAK BioLabs. Through this collaboration, Senescence products will launch in June in Thailand, making it the first market where the firm has direct-to-consumer products.

"The next key markets for us would be Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. APAC is big, so we want to take things one step at a time," ​said Watson.

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