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Meet the CEO: How a HealthTech Startup Is Helping Make Sense of the Mind, or at Least the Brain: Michel Birnbaum of Mindsigns Health©

Meet the CEO: How a HealthTech Startup Is Helping Make Sense of the Mind, or at Least the Brain: Michel Birnbaum of Mindsigns Health©

  • The company has developed a platform focused on brain health
  • Their product line-up includes a cloud-based platform which provides automated EEG interpretation and analysis as well as remote monitoring of mental health symptoms via verbal, non-verbal and body motor signals
  • Generates patient’s status and clinical insights in a fraction of the time compared to using traditional methods, leaving more time for patient care
  • Michel Birnbaum is the CEO and Co-founder of Mindsigns Health
Michel Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Mindsigns Health
Find Mindsigns Health on HealthTech Alpha

Mindsigns Health provides cloud-based solutions for monitoring brain health. The Company’s evidence-based solutions drive the analysis of digital biomarkers to provide relevant clinical insights in EEG and mental health interpretation. 

Its mental health analysis and monitoring platform empowers healthcare care providers, patients and caregivers and enhance the quality, management and delivery of care to patients with little disruption to workflows.

Because the platform can be applied remotely, it is able to provide information on a patient’s mental health status outside of a clinical setting. It has the ability to monitor the digital health of patients in more rural areas for whom visits to a hospital or a specialist are not practical.

The company is currently raising money via a Pre- Series A round. It is based in Singapore. 

About Michel Birnbaum

Michel was born in France, but moved to the US while young where he spent his formative years.

He studied at New York University Tandon School of Engineering, where he earned a BSc in Aerospace Engineering. Later, he studied at the London Business School where he completed an MBA.

In what he describes as another life, Michel was a graduate of the General Electric Edison program, working for GE Military as a Project engineer on military programs. He is also a former Director, Investment Banking Hambrecht & Quist Europe.

Since 2014 he has been the entrepreneur in residence at NTU (Nanyang Technological University) in Singapore. He says that he has met a lot of smart people, professors, PhDs and undergraduates; and it was here that he met Dr Justin Dauwels,  his fellow co-founder of Mindsigns Health.

Today, he is a busy man — what with running Mindsigns and still as the Director of Entrepreneurship and Research Translation at NTU, and “Lab to Market” lecturer at MIT-SMART SMU Academy and other NTU projects.

“When I was at university, I had big plans for an aerospace career,” he says, “but none of them came to be.” He used to play in bands around the Boston area as a way to have a creative outlet.

Listening to him, one gets the impression that during his early adult life he was almost waiting to discover a career in healthcare — not that he realised it at the time.

He wanted to do good, and have “an impact on people, and leverage technology to do that.” But looking back, he concedes that maybe he spent too long in jobs, in his early career, and wishes he had discovered healthcare sooner. But no experience or job is wasted as he likes to say.

But if you want to do good and help people, “healthcare is different,” he says, “especially when you go to a hospital, you feel that you have to do something to help, even if it’s a little bit.”

And that takes us to his motivation behind Mindsigns Health. “If you can monitor people more effectively and provide an easier access to care for patients so that clinicians can intervene in a more timely manner, it’s win win.”

In such a hectic lifestyle, how does he relax? He says he has been meditating for eight years, something he had done previously at university. “I am much calmer, as a result, and I have a sharper focus on what needs to be done” he says.

As for inspiration, he says it is not famous people from whom he draws inspiration, but rather everyday people, front line health workers including some family members — something that has become even more important to him during the Covid crisis.

He also says that his kids inspire him to do good for the next generation. 

And he reads a lot. For choice of his favourite books he chooses two which are about as different as you can get. He cites Art of War, the ancient Chinese text attributed to Sun Tzu and The Art of Collaboration by the Chinese admiral Zheng He. Whereas the Art of War says “know your enemies,” Zheng said “Know your collaborators, know yourself.” 

Michel says that the lessons from that ancient book are still relevant today — business and running a startup is “not about the winner takes it all, but about partnerships.”

And that takes us to the best advice he ever received. He cites two examples. One was from his parents who said “follow your dreams,” — advice they gave him, even if they didn’t agree with his dreams. The other advice, was to have the courage of your convictions.

“There is a difference between belief in what you are doing and being stubborn. You must listen and adapt.”

The importance of listening and adapting is reflected in how he chooses employees or partners — he says that all the Mindsigns employees are entrepreneurs in their own right, otherwise they would not have chosen to work for an early stage startup. And “I want people to challenge me always and inform the decision making process.”  

This willingness to listen and adapt applies to the relationship between corporates and startups, he suggests. “Corporates should see startups as part of their continued growth, they need to realise that they can’t invent everything.

In Asia, however, he says that corporates look at startups “as the little ones and squeeze them, instead of seeing them as partners in growth.” But he says that this is slowly changing.

The Mindsigns Health solutions

Mindsigns focuses on impactful solutions that leverage digital biomarkers for monitoring brain health. 

Its neuro health platform, Neurobrowser©, enhances the EEG interpretation process, saving clinicians time and resources and enabling them to focus on the delivery of quality care to their patients while optimising costs. 

The process of EEG review and interpretation is critical for the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological disorders. “It can take a neurologist 60-90 minutes to annotate a 24 hour EEG reading — which is not good use of their highly valuable time. The Mindsigns platform can annotate EEG readings for clinical markers of neurological disorders “in six to ten minutes,” he says. 

Neurological health is not the only thing Mindsigns Health is focused on, as Michel acknowledges that mental health is an integral part of brain health:  “a significant number of people with chronic conditions such as epilepsy also suffer mental health issues due to the anxiety and stress of managing their chronic condition. Physical and mental well-being are intrinsically linked” he says.

Mindsigns’ mental health solution, GenMind©, offers an automated approach to monitor mental health symptoms, remotely and over time, via verbal and visual analysis of behavior. The platform, currently, is able to identify and track the severity of symptoms related to schizophrenia and depression that contribute to impairments and diminished quality of life.

This platform enables the monitoring of mental health status outside of clinical settings and between doctor appointments. “In Europe, US, Australia and Singapore, case workers with stacks of sheets call patients and ask them about their health over the phone.” With Mindsigns, patients can be monitored “almost in real time.” When there is a need for an intervention, “an alert is sent.”

The platform is also effective at diagnostic triage. Traditionally, it can take many months for a patient to be diagnosed with either schizophrenia or depression — three to four months to see a specialist and then more months for testing. The Mindsigns platform can achieve this much more rapidly “with at least 85 percent accuracy.”

In time, Michel expects to be able to triage for other conditions as Mindsigns keeps developing its solutions for other disorders.

The remote telehealth approach can support patients in remote areas. For example, in India a hospital with appropriate facilities and specialists might be over 300 kilometres away, and it is not practical nor feasible for a patient to travel this distance. Remote monitoring can help overcome these issues.

In addition to monitoring patients, the platform can also be used to monitor individuals whose family history or studies of their genetics, suggest they may be susceptible to mental illness. In this context, Michel believes the platform could be used as a wellness and awareness product and provide early warning of possible schizophrenia or other mental condition.

Michel emphasizes that “ it is our top priority to always ensure patient privacy and the proper and secure management of the data life cycle as we deal primarily with at-risk individuals”.

Key Partnerships

Mindsigns key partnerships are with hospitals, focussing on how their solution can be effective outside of hospitals. Mindsigns is continuously looking for medical collaborators globally.

There is also potential for pharmaceutical companies to be part of the value chain. Mindsigns’ platforms can assist with time consuming symptom monitoring during clinical drug trials for example. Michel and his team have been in discussions with a CRO (Clinical Research Organization) outside of Asia to explore ways to integrate Mindsigns’ solutions in drug trials for various mental health symptoms.

Support From Galen Growth and the Benefits of the Cohort

Michel lists three benefits of the Galen Growth cohort:

  • Startups need exposure, especially to potential industrial partners, big pharmaceuticals, medtech companies and investors.
  • It also helps companies like Mindsigns network with other great startups and potentially find collaboration partners.
  • And it forces “us to be on top of our game,” “because we are in the companies of other great startups it forces us to stay continuously sharp. Galen understands startups better than anyone out there in terms of the needed support.”

The Effect of Covid-19

Michel draws an analogy with Apple, and the sudden impact of the iPhone, which changed the world rapidly. He suggests that in some ways Covid-19 is analogous to that.

The Mindsigns solution began life more than five years ago, but in the Covid world, it is especially apt.

He says that before Covid, telehealth and remote monitoring were ‘nice to have,’ now it is an imperative — doctors must apply it, to stay in business and be able to care for their patients safely.

Post-covid, Michel believes that while not all healthcare will be done this way, it will be an important part of a hospital’s and physician’s practice.

“Practices such as telemedicine will help stabilise costs,” he believes. After-all, healthcare costs had seemed to be on an inextricable course upwards. Thanks to Covid, this upward trend “may stabilise” with different channels of care delivery being deployed.

He also believes Covid has led to investors taking more interest in remote monitoring and telehealth, and for clinicians, whereas before Covid, they were thinking about it, it has now become imperative to incorporate in their practice.

About the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort

Mindsigns Health is part of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort, the only acceleration programme built to scale digital health startups to be the next generation powering healthcare innovation in the New Normal in Asia. In 2020, Galen Growth is working with 25 HealthTech startups which will benefit from Galen Growth’s long-established and unmatched curated community of investors, corporate leaders and innovation teams and other essential stakeholders through our proven multi-channel tools. For more information, visit Galen Growth’s HealthTech Cohort webpage or read this article on the launch of the Galen Growth HealthTech Cohort.

Read our previous interview with Asher Hasan, Executive Chairman & Co-Founder of doctHERs here.

Looking for more Meet the CEO exclusive interviews? Click here.

© 2023 Galen Growth Asia Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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