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Finding patterns in behavior to personalize care

Harvard startup uses technology to enhance treatments for depression

Hyka Therapeutics product mockup

A mockup of the Hyka Therapeutics product. (Image provided by Hyka Therapeutics)

Depression and anxiety affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and while technology has enabled the development of novel treatments, existing software used in a clinical setting can often be rigid and disconnected from the patient.

For startup Hyka Therapeutics, the insights gleaned from AI-enabled analysis of patient behavioral data is the key to offering users better therapeutic care. Alongside emerging treatments like neuromodulation, the startup’s digital content is engineered to complement, enhance, and evolve with each patient’s treatment cycle.

Jeronimo Beccar, CEO and co-founder of Hyka Therapeutics, began exploring this space in the master in design engineering program, offered jointly by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Graduate School of Design. After conducting a series of stakeholder interviews, Beccar, M.D.E. ’19, learned that many of the issues in mental health care stem from a lack of feedback, not only for the clinician, but also for the patient.

“There is tremendous opportunity to optimize and enhance the way we provide mental health care: saving clinician’s time, saving insurance companies money, and most importantly, improving the patient health care experience,” Beccar said. 

In his study of mental health treatments, Beccar began exploring neuromodulation. He took an interest in brain stimulation therapies, which can alter activity in the brain with lasting effects. During a visit to the SEAS Active Learning Labs, he sought out bioelectrical engineer J. Evan Smith for advice, having learned that Smith had experience working in the Brain Stimulation Engineering Lab (BSEL) at Duke University’s School of Medicine.

Hyka Therapeutics team Zoom meeting

A Zoom meeting with some of the Hyka team members (clockwise from top left), co-founder and CTO J. Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO Jeronimo Beccar, Payton Jones (data science), Benjamin Bellet (psychology content), Kenneth Alba (product management), Alice Chuang (product design), and Logan Wright (software development). (Image provided by Hyka Therapeutics)

It wasn’t long before the two decided to combine their expertise and co-found Hyka Therapeutics, drawing on advice and support from the Harvard Innovation Labs’ Venture Incubation Program. The startup provides intelligent software that offers data-driven insights to personalize and enhance mental health treatments.

“Our software can offer a user not only the most pertinent digital intervention at a given time, but also insight into how specific psychological processes are tied to the symptoms that affect them the most,” Smith said. “We present users with their patterns of experience, highlighting key issues to cut away at the friction inhibiting behavioral change. The individual doesn’t have to look through a library of content to find the right therapy for what they are feeling. We pay close attention to symptoms and behaviors, like isolating or ruminating, to tailor content for the user.“

As their behaviors change, users can see how that impacts depressive symptoms.

“A lot of people don’t even know that something like procrastinating could make their depression symptoms worse. And all of these behaviors are connected,” Beccar said. “With Hyka, we untangle this mess to enable our users to act.”

Natasha Bolotinsky Hyka user testing

Psychiatrist Natasha Bolotinsky tries out the Hyka Therapeutics software during a user testing session. (Photo provided by Hyka Therapeutics)

The Hyka team has developed a clinician-facing dashboard for specialists administering emerging treatments that bridges the gap between the clinic and the home. Hyka can provide tailored educational and therapeutic content in moments where the efficacy of a treatment is waning, improving efficiency and treatment outcomes, Beccar said.

The next step for Hyka will be to evaluate their product in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital under the advice of Chief Neuropsychiatrist Joan Camprodon and Kristen Ellard, Director of the Neuroimaging Lab. Beccar is interested in better understanding how this product can influence the way people experience mental health care.

For Beccar, it has been rewarding to work towards solving a problem that could have an impact on so many people.

Topics: Entrepreneurship

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