Cognitive assessment platform Linus Health buys speech analytics startup Aural Analytics

The company also added a Hearing Screener and Digital Trail Making Test to its platform

Linus Health is a digital health company enabling early detection of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, a disease that 6.7 million people are now estimated to have. It uses artificial intelligence and neuroscience technology to better screen for signs of the disease. 

Now the company will be expanding, adding three new tools to its platform, including clinical-grade speech analytics through its acquisition of Aural Analytics. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed but Linus will be incorporating Aural’s technology and intellectual property.

Launched in 2015, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Aural Analytics provides software called Speech Vitals, which is used by healthcare systems and life science organizations in pharmaceutical research and clinical trials. It collects samples of speech from patients via app-based tests and evaluates them to assess cognitive conditions. It has been used to detect multiple neurological conditions, such as dementia, autism and ALS.

“Both Linus Health and Aural Analytics have been dedicated to improved detection of signs of cognitive dysfunction. While Linus Health focused on assessments that evaluate subjects’ memory, cognitive ability and motor skills, Aural Analytics pioneered the use of speech analytics to detect problems,” David Bates, CEO and co-founder of Linus Health, told VatorNews.

“With the addition of Aural Analytics’ technology, Linus Health is able to take a more comprehensive multimodal approach to identifying mild cognitive impairment (MCI).”

The acquisition expands Linus Health’s operations into the life sciences industry, where Aural Analytics has exclusively operated. This will allow the company to bring its technology to bear in pharmaceutical trials and clinical research, which will further healthcare’s knowledge of dementia, improve early detection, and help develop treatments and interventions.

Linus and Aural had previously collaborated in the Bio-Hermes clinical trial, the first platform study to compare results of blood and digital biomarker tests, including digital cognitive and voice assessments, with the results of brain amyloid PET scans and traditional cognitive tests. With the acquisition, Linus Health now owns the raw speech data from the trial, which Bates says, “is unique and tremendously valuable.” 

Linus Health had also previously tested some aspects of Aural Analytics’ voice analysis in its multimodal algorithms, and the combination of the two technologies outperformed standard paper-and-pencil tests.

Incorporating Aural’s technology complements Linus Health’s platform of cognitive assessment tests and will allow it to deliver even more accurate performance and develop additional tools for use by clinicians, said Bates.

“Applying Linus Health’s AI and machine learning to this speech database will lead to new insights and also allow us to lower the cost of clinical trials because we will be able to identify and pre-qualify candidates,” he explained.

“Each expansion of the Linus Health platform is like adding a new specialist to the screening process. Prior to the acquisition of Aural Analytics, we had a cognitive neurologist, a psychiatrist, a neuromotor neurologist and, now, we’ve brought in a speech language pathologist.”

Founded in 2019, Linus Health’s customers include major pharma companies and researchers who need screening tools for their trials, as well as some clinics for screening patients. The company doesn’t offer cognitive treatment, but its tests are used by researchers and clinicians to gain insights on an individual’s cognitive health which they can use to develop and monitor a treatment plan.  

Patients complete assessments, which take under three minutes, on a mobile device that are assigned by their clinician or a study administrator. In the DCTclock test, for example, participants are asked by a mobile app to draw the face of an analog clock and set its hands at a specified time; in other tests, the participant may be asked to remember and repeat words to test their working memory, still in others, the participant simply looks at a series of photographs.

Linus captures over 100 biomarkers of their drawing process and responses, including the analysis of time between words, what words they recalled, and how quickly they were able to recall them through natural language processing. Once the test is complete, the patient’s care professional will receive the result of the artificial intelligence analysis, who will provide them with their next steps and a treatment plan, if necessary. 

In 2022, Linus launched Core Cognitive Evaluation, the first iPad-based brain health platform for enabling early detection of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, building on its DCTclock test with a digital questionnaire to provide visibility into both a patient’s current cognitive status and future dementia risk and inform recommendations for providers and patients. That same year it was introduced to primary care and neurology clinics.

Also in 2022, Linus Health acquired Kinesis Health Technologies, an Irish firm specializing in physical function assessment for older adults. The acquisition was made to further Linus Health’s ability to generate a robust view of an individual’s brain health to facilitate early detection of issues.

In 2023, Linus Health launched Linus Clinical Pathways which provides tailored, actionable clinical decision support for providers. Linus Health also joined the athenahealth Marketplace to make its platform directly accessible to providers in that network. It also began a collaboration with Emory Healthcare to further implement digital cognitive assessments in primary care.

In addition to the acquisition of Aural, Linus also announced the launch of two additions to its suite of cognitive health assessments: the Hearing Screener and Digital Trail Making Test Part B (dTMT), which Bates says will “accelerate and simplify the early detection and management of MCI, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.”

The Hearing Screener is a tool to determine if the condition is related to dementia: nearly 48 million people, and nearly 80% of older adults, have some degree of hearing loss and evidence shows the longer they wait to identify and treat the condition, the harder it is to prevent the progression of dementia. The Hearing Screener, which is registered as a medical device in the US, Canada, and Europe, tests for hearing loss, but is primarily focused on identifying signs of MCI. Based on the results, providers can act to restore patient hearing and potentially slow the development of dementia.

The dTMT, an FDA Class II medical device, is based on a higher-level manual assessment of cognitive executive functioning developed in 1944; the test asks patients to connect circles that alternate between ascending numbers and letters and evaluates the speed and accuracy of the responses to detect signs of MCI and whether referral to a specialist is warranted. The test is able to capture more data than a paper-based exam and offers insights thanks to the digital format and Linus Health’s AI-driven analysis. 

Linus Health is committed to developing the most capable, comprehensive and accessible platform for early detection of MCI. These expansions, along with the acquisition of Aural Analytics’ speech analytics technology, add substantially to the company’s suite of assessment tools,” said Bates.

Linus Health will continue to add assessment and screening capabilities to its platform. We will continue developing the practical implications of our cognitive assessments, as well as its potential for use in population health. By combining the best aspects of both companies, Linus Health will expand and streamline the clinical workflows it supports.”

(Image source: linushealth.com)

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