Health IT, Startups

Savonix raises seed funding to get a snapshot of your brain with cognitive assessment app

The seed round marks the first health tech investment for the Pentagon’s venture capital arm, BMNT Capital.

Several health tech companies are developing health tech focused on the brain that claim to do everything from help people to relax and concentrate to assess cognitive functions.

Savonix is one such business. It’s raised $1.5 million to commercialize its digital cognitive screening tool for things like stress, depression, anxiety and memory issues linked to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, according to a company statement. It will use the funding to add staff and to launch and scale its flagship assessment tool.

RoundGlass Partners led the financing round with additional participation from Kickstart Seed Fund, BMNT Capital, and strategic angel investors Bandel Carano and Ed Glassmeyer, who also serve as partners at Oak Venture Capital.

The seed round marks the first health tech investment by BMNT Capital, which works with federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and set up shop in the Silicon Valley earlier this year. Peter Newell, a partner with BMNT Capital, said in an emailed statement:

 “After more than 10 years at war and $100’s of millions of dollars spent diagnosing and searching for cures to Post Traumatic Stress we have yet to make a serious attempt to give our military members the tools they need to to understand themselves and improve their resilience to stress….Savonix represents the first opportunity we have seen that will help our military members understand themselves and actually work towards building their resilience to stress BEFORE deploying to combat.”

A spokesman for the company said that the tool is designed to reduce the time and cost associated with doing these screenings. Currently, if a parent wants a child with behavioral disorders screened, a clinician needs to run a battery of tests that can take several hours and cost quite a bit. Besides that, there may also be a backlog just to get an appointment.

Mylea Charvat, the CEO and founder of the company, is a translational neuroscientist. She has worked as a neuroscience fellow at Stanford Healthcare and has also served as post traumatic stress disorder specialist at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Wyoming.

In a phone interview, Charvat said she used to administer these cognitive assessments herself at the VA. She recalls that her first patient there was a Vietnam vet in his 60s struggling to understand what was happening to him. He had PTSD. He had never been assessed and getting a diagnosis and explaining why he had that condition made him feel better, Charvat recalled.

The biggest problem, she said, is that the assessments aren’t administered when they’re needed.

“We wanted to make this hugely accessible and to do that we had to make these tests available on smartphones.”

Charvat noted that the app is more than a questionnaire. Cognitive assessments involve tasks such as recreating images briefly shown to users and evaluating response time.

“Savonix is founded on the knowledge that evidence-based digital neuro-assessment positively impacts the lives and health of individuals and organizations,” said Charvat in the statement. “We know these cognitive assessments work, they’ve simply been unavailable behind the walls of academia or trapped within decades old structures that are expensive, cumbersome and inaccessible. Savonix is going to liberate these tools and make evidence-based cognitive testing available and affordable to anyone.”

Photo: Flickr user Allan Ajifo