French start Calliope isn’t your average startup because it’s solving a very difficult problem in a highly regulated industry. The startup is building a remote patient monitoring platform for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and potentially other mental health issues. And the company uses the patient’s voice for this monitoring tool.
Callyope recently raised a $2.4 million (€2.2 million) funding round led by 360 Capital and Bpifrance’s Digital Venture fund. No Label Ventures and several angel investors also participated in the round.
In France, 600,000 people live with schizophrenia. More than one million people experience bipolar disorder. Many of them see a psychiatrist regularly. But psychiatrists are overwhelmed and only see each patient every four to six weeks.
“You have many molecules that have been around since the 1970s to more or less stabilize people. And yet, if you go to a psychiatric hospital, half of the people there relapse in the same year,” co-founder and CEO Martin Denais told me.
If you see a psychiatrist regularly, they can usually prevent relapses before it’s too late. That’s why Callyope wants to “enhance” psychiatrists with a patient monitoring system that can alert health professionals. This way, they can book a time slot for the patient the next day.
Instead of asking patients to fill out a form, Callyope uses speech recognition and other soft biomarkers (such as sleep, physical and social activity) to regularly check in on patients. That’s because patients often have issues with self-understanding of their symptoms. They feel they are doing well even though things are worse than last week.
“On the patient side, we’re still in the early stages of product development,” Denais said. Callyope doesn’t want to watch over you 24/7. Instead, the startup may ask you to answer some simple questions using voice messages. Denais shared some examples, such as “Did you sleep well today? Does your medicine seem to be working well?”
Of course, some patients may not actively record a voice message per week. In that case, a hospital nurse may call you and record the call for analysis purposes.
In addition to the content of the conversation, Callyope examines other symptoms. For example, “in schizophrenia, you have seven symptoms — and one of them is disorganized speech,” says Denais. “With bipolar disorder, you have four or five symptoms. When people are very good, there is one symptom, which is rapid speech. “
Training on sensitive data
Unlike other industries, Callyope must consider product milestones. Once the first version of its proprietary model is trained, it must freeze the development of this version and submit it to the health authorities to obtain the relevant certifications.
“Now, we have very good initial results in the general population,” Denais said. “We get them to fill out short self-questionnaires about anxiety and depression. And we ask them to talk to find out if we can detect mild signs earlier. So that’s done We have shown that it works well, and we will publish a scientific paper early next year. After that, the company plans to use the same technology again in patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia.
The startup is currently working with psychiatric hospitals to acquire data and train its model on this proprietary data with privacy in mind. Eventually, the company wants to have a model that can analyze the audio directly on the device to send the results to the psychiatrist.
“Basically, this data enables us to improve the performance of our algorithm, always with the cardinal point that we only use what the patient wants to give us, and in a completely safe way from a technical point of view, so that for a long time we do not have access to anything,” said Denais.