Firm seeks €500k to fund alternative treatment for ADHD

Áine Behan: Tool has the capacity to cut treatment costs for children with ADHD.

A data-driven game uses cognitive training and brainwaves to improve attention levels in children, writes Trish Dromey.

Dublin company Cortechs is seeking €500,000 to fund the international launch of innovative technology designed to provide an alternative treatment for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

This follows the receipt of €1.3m in EU Horizon 2020 Funding earlier in the year for the commercialisation of the technology — a data-driven, therapeutic game that uses cognitive training and brainwaves to improve attention levels in children with ADHD.

Company founder and CEO, Dr Áine Behan, is already in discussions with investors with a view to getting the company’s product on the market as quickly as possible.

“The funding will be used to ramp up operations and deliver our enterprise solution CereBrill throughout Europe and North America,” she said, adding that this investment and the EU funding will also be used to double the staff number at its premises in Dublin and Galway to eight by 2019.

The announcement comes after three years of development on Cortechs’ first game, called Zip and the Misty Mountain which was developed for use by six to 12-year-olds with ADHD.

In 2015, the company began selling an early version to parents and schools for use by individual children, but since 2017 has been working on the creation of an enterprise level solution which can be used by large tech and healthcare based companies to make the game available on a much wider scale.

Dr Behan has ambitious plans for Cortechs’ future growth and aims to achieve a turnover of €7.8m and have over 20,000 users by 2022.

Setting up the company in 2013, Dr Behan, who a PhD in Neuroscience, used ideas which came out of her research.

While working with industry researching the effects of stressors on the brain, she began looking at cognitive impairment and ADHD.

“It is mostly treated with drugs -- I wanted to investigate treatment methods that didn’t necessarily involve drugs and looked at the possibility of using technology to deliver complementary therapeutics to target behavioural problems,” she said.

She came up with the idea of using a game as a non-invasive way to train the brain to be attentive. At the end of 2013 she gave up a full time research lecturing position to develop this idea and signed up to take part in the New Frontiers programme for startups.

During 2015 she accepted a place on the Bank of Ireland Accelerator programme, secured €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland and continued work on developing both her business plan and her first game.

By 2017 Dr Behan had raised €500,000 which included some EU funding as well as private investment from NDRC.

Using early funding to carry out school pilot test of the technology she got positive results.

“A positive impact on attentive behaviours was seen by teachers and parents on 75% of the children who participated in the study,” said Dr Behan who estimated that since the launch of the game in 2015, Cortechs has sold to over 200 customers.

In 2017 the company used the funding raised to take on staff and begin work on creating a platform for the technology which could be commercialised to healthcare content providers.

“Our solution is a personalised, adaptable and pervasive attention training tool that is beneficial, accessible and a cost-effective alternative to medical intervention,” said Dr Behan, adding that there are in the region of 235 million people with ADHD in the world including 131.5 million children between the ages of five and 12.

The company’s strategy is to begin by targeting the ADHD therapeutics market in developed countries where there are 71.5 million children aged between six and 12. Dr Behan says this will give the company an addressable market worth €10bn over the next three years. It has the capacity, she says, to have a hugely positive societal impact and significantly cut treatments costs for children with ADHD.

Part of the future plan for Cortechs is to develop the technology for use in the cognitive impairment market, which is now valued at €80bn worldwide and predicted to grow to €393bn by 2022.

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