- Founders: Emilia Molimpakis and Stefano Goria
- Founded in: 2020
- Employees: 14
- Money raised: 780 000 pounds
- Ultimate goal: -
If you have diabetes, blood test shows it. If you have some kind of mental disorder, there is no objective way to show it. People can remain sceptical, whether it’s real or not. The UK-based start-up Thymia brings a pioneering solution, in the form of a video game. They are all about erasing the stigma around mental illnesses.
The video game minimises uncertainty on the subject by using neuropsychology, linguistics, and machine learning to detect signs of depression. It also monitors whether patients are responding to treatment.
There are many innovations and start-ups with the mission of early detection of various mental illnesses, such as depression or Alzheimer. Diagnosis through genetic testing or intelligent speech recognition are both already effective ways of extracting data about the status of patients. Thymia brings something different to the market. Emilia Molimpakis, CEO and Co-founder of Thymia tells us more about it.
What was the motivation behind developing Thymia?
Before founding Thymia, I worked for 12 years in academia as a neuroscientist. I was working with a lot of patients with mental health conditions and cognitive disorders. Two years ago a very close friend of my developed depression. She went to see her GP here in the UK, then a psychologist and a psychiatrist. None of them realized how serious her condition was until it was too late. She ended up trying to kill herself. I was the one who found her. That really pushed me to try and see if there was a way I could help. I realized that her psychiatrist and her psychologist should have seen how bad the situation was. Sadly, they didn’t have the tools to do it properly. That’s what made me leave academia. I joined an accelerator program and I met my co-founder there.
What were the difficulties you had to overcome in the process?
One challenge was gain funding from a venture capital. It’s, a deep tech company. To create a product that clinicians will use, we need to gather data to be able to generate revenue. It was also difficult to get certified. As well as going through the processes to make sure our medical device is completely safe and can be used by clinicians.
How did you get funded?
We were founded within Entrepreneur first, it’s an accelerator program here in the UK. They kickstarted us with a small investment of about 80,000. After that, they exposed us to a lot of VC (venture capital) funds. We spent the first few months pitching to loads of different investors. We had hundreds of conversations, but we always stuck to the VC route.
Can you walk me through the way Thymia is working?
The core technology essentially combines three different data streams. We look at how you speak and what the things are that you’re saying. We track both the acoustic properties of the voice and the actual linguistic content. The second data stream is video. We track how your eyes are moving on the screen. We also look at how your facial expressions are changing. We basically analyse thousands of little points on your face, where the muscles connect to each other and move. Lastly, we look at how you are interacting with the video games. In terms of tapping or clicking and looking at things like reaction times and errors that you make.
What kind of video game are the patients playing with?
There are a couple of different games which can all be accessed via desktop or a smartphone. One of the games involves verbally describing what you notice in an animated café scene. Another involves memorizing moving objects like bees. There are also specific games designed to test and measure patients’ fatigue levels. All of the games are exclusive to Thymia and have been exclusively developed by the Thymia team for use on the platform.
What other types of mental disorders are you aiming to cover?
Now we’re able to distinguish major depression from no depression. We’re also expanding now to other cognitive impairments, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy body dementia and ADHD. Once we have that data, we’ll be able to say whether somebody has depression, or if they’re older they have Alzheimer’s. It’s very common in older people to confuse Alzheimer’s with depression. In children it’s very common to confuse depression with ADHD or autism. Within the next couple of years, we are aiming to be able to distinguish all of these from each other. Within the next 10 years, we want to expand to every cognitive disorder.
What is the difference between Thymia and other already existing alternatives for the early diagnosis of mental disorders?
I think there’s a lot of people developed something using just voice or just video. We’re the only company which combines voice and video and the video game element. This is super important because this is the only way that you can actually get a proper, robust and accurate model. We already have the largest multimedia depression dataset in existence. We gather data from over 2,000 people with depression and we have thousands of hours of data.
Besides, Tymia is not about just a one-off assessment. The real value is in the fact that we do the longitudinal assessments. Which means that every person has their own unique, special model within the Thymia system. We can take into account your language, accent, cultural background, whether you have other conditions or you’re taking medication.
What are you most proud of and what are the future plans?
It’s been really great that we’ve raised close to 2 million pounds. That has allowed us to build a product very quickly. We’re launching the product in two weeks from now. As I mentioned, the product is language agnostic, the launching will take place in the UK and in Greece but we have clinics in Spain and in Italy. We have interest from Brazil, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. That’s fantastic!
You can read the other installments in this series here