TORONTO, March 29, 2022
Winterlight Labs, a developer of digital biomarkers for the measurement of speech and language in cognitive health, will collaborate with leading memory clinic, Alzheimer Center Amsterdam of Amsterdam UMC, to decentralize assessments of patients’ cognition and function in the study of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Health (Health~Holland), Alzheimer Center Amsterdam will develop a remote measurement toolbox, integrating Winterlight’s digital speech assessments to help capture subtle changes in cognitive health. It is anticipated that the work will establish a validated, fast, and frequent approach to monitoring patients in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and ultimately help to provide detailed measurements of the impact of preventative treatments.
Clinical trials targeting early Alzheimer’s disease are challenged by a lack of clinical endpoints able to capture the fine-grained patterns of decline in the preclinical stages. While patients may appear ‘cognitively healthy’, subtle changes will already be present, including in spontaneous speech. Winterlight and Alzheimer Center Amsterdam will collaboratively develop a profile of remotely assessed outcomes able to quantify decline in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying these changes will build a picture of early disease impact and progression, and lead to greater understanding of the subtle influences that interventions have on patients’ cognition.
The toolbox will integrate Winterlight’s machine learning-based technology that analyzes short snippets of speech to detect the extent of cognitive impairment associated with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Winterlight’s AI platform objectively measures speech and language patterns via hundreds of vocal biomarkers. The acoustics and content of recordings, collected from patients through their own devices, are assessed using natural language processing techniques to achieve objective and precise measurement of a patient’s speech patterns.
“We are delighted to collaborate with the team at Alzheimer Center Amsterdam to establish an approach that will provide remote means of detecting and assessing the impact of preclinical Alzheimer’s,” comments Jessica Robin, Director, Clinical Research at Winterlight Labs. “Winterlight has extensive experience in using speech assessments in the study of Alzheimer’s and this collaboration will work towards further validating the platform in assessing patients in the preclinical stages of the condition.”
Post-development, the toolbox will be evaluated in a prospective cohort study and validated by applying high dimensional data analytics to unveil trends and patterns associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Subsequently, the study will validate the use of speech measures by comparing to traditional clinical assessments and tracking change over longitudinal testing. A roadmap will then be developed to implement the toolbox in clinical trials.
Liam Kaufman, CEO and co-founder of Winterlight Labs, said: “Assessments of patient speech are achieving more detailed insights into the cognitive state and progression of patients with preclinical Alzheimer’s. We are pleased to be working with the team at Alzheimer Center Amsterdam to combine our expertise in building a monitoring toolbox that can improve the collection of patient assessments in practice and provide more sensitive measurements of the effects of novel treatments.”
Sietske Sikkes, Associate Professor at Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, comments: “We look forward to working with Winterlight to break new ground in using speech assessments for the remote monitoring of patients. Establishing methods that enable us to assess individuals in a detailed, unobtrusive, and frequent way, within their own environments, is crucial in building a comprehensive picture of the impact of the condition. In doing this, we aim to develop a better roadmap for Alzheimer’s monitoring globally and establish a model for the use of at-home assessments in clinical practice.”
Winterlight Labs is commercializing a proprietary language-based diagnostic system that analyzes natural speech to detect and monitor dementia, Alzheimer’s, aphasia, and various other cognitive conditions. Winterlight's scalable platform uses short recorded speech samples to analyze hundreds of linguistic cues, and can detect dementia and other conditions with a high level of accuracy. This is a major improvement over current pencil-and-paper tests which are time-consuming, costly, and difficult to administer. The platform has applications in drug trials, long-term and primary care, and speech-language pathology.
Since its founding, Winterlight Labs has seen strong interest from pharmaceutical companies and other potential partners who view the technology as a major improvement over current methods of detection or screening. The company has gained support from the pan-Canadian AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), the Ontario Brain Institute, Ontario Centres of Excellence, and the University of Toronto Banting and Best Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information, visit www.winterlightlabs.com.
Liam Kaufman, CEO
liam [at] winterlightlabs.com