Mon4t’s app is already FDA-approved for patients with motor and cognitive impairments, and now the company is moving into the psychiatric domain.
Millions of mental health sufferers struggle with the impression that no one else knows exactly how they feel. A new Israeli partnership with a Detroit connection seeks to change things.
Ziv Yekutieli, Ph.D., studied both electrical engineering and medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and Tel Aviv University and worked at Intel, where he was hoping he could develop chips to be implanted in the brains of disabled people and stroke survivors. Once he had realized that was not the case, he and his friend Dima Gershman left the company and founded Montfort (Mon4t) in 2017.
Talking to doctors, Yekutieli realized that they did not need new technology, but ways to use existing technology more efficiently.
“The patient isn’t in the clinic 99.9% of the time,” Yekutieli said. “With diabetes or cardiovascular or lung diseases, it doesn’t matter when you catch the person. In neurology, it’s an entirely different world. Things greatly vary day to day, moment to moment.”
Mon4t’s first proof of concept was a home version of a common test for Parkinson’s patients. In 2018, the company won the Henry Ford Health System’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Challenge. Professor Peter LeWitt, the director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Program at the hospital, has since become an adviser to the company, and recently, its chief medical officer.
Detroit was also the first U.S. city that Yekutieli had visited, as part of an American Technion Society delegation.
“In neurology, you don’t put a thermometer into the patient’s mouth and get a temperature,” Yekutieli said. “We quickly realized that if we wanted to make something holistic and agile, for a neurologist who could see a patient with disease A today and disease B tomorrow, we couldn’t develop a separate app for every test. Eventually we developed an app that’s like a media player for tests instead of songs.”
Once a doctor anonymously registers the patient using one version of the app, the patient receives a link to a compact and custom version with reminders when to perform the tests. The app is also able to passively collect data such as the patient’s walking rate and number of steps.
Mon4t’s app is already FDA-approved for patients with motor and cognitive impairments, and now the company is moving into the psychiatric domain. For that, the company has partnered with Professor Abraham Peled, a department chair at the Shaar Menashe mental health center and one of the first in the world to use mathematical models of psychiatric psychopathology in his post-doctoral research on neural networks.
“With this app, the doctor performs the usual diagnosis because it’s important to me that it will be an evolution, not a revolution compared to what we know,” Peled said. “Simultaneously, the patient reports on his own condition. Now, we also have a subjective-objective platform that samples the patient’s motor ability and unrest, his speech and, in the future, his ability to communicate with others. Each validates the other.
“In recent years, we’ve known that psychosis, the most extreme part of psychiatric illness, is related to disconnection syndrome in the cerebral cortex. With this platform, you can predict that the patient will be diagnosed with it before seeing that in MRI. In the future, it can be the basis for pacemakers in the brain.”
All that data is attached to physiological data from the clinic. The name Mon4t comes from the monitoring of four dimensions — motor, cognitive, affective and physiological — over time.
Peled often says that if you let 10 psychiatrists diagnose the same patient and five of them were in agreement, it would be an impressive achievement.
“In medicine, the diagnosis system is etiological — the name of the disease is also its cause. In psychiatry, the system is descriptive,” Peled said. “When the patient says, ‘I feel depressed,’ and the doctor says, ‘You have depression,’ the patient thinks, ‘I’ve just told you that!’ If you tell a doctor that your stomach hurts, you won’t be satisfied if he says, ‘You have a stomach ache.’
“In the long term, the platform will let a doctor provide a translator that tells the patient what’s wrong with him. It can trigger some kind of a revolution in the rephrasing and discovery of diseases. I think Mon4t will catalyze it.”