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EMBA participants take on Alzheimer’s

Three Cambridge Executive MBA participants and a professor of molecular biology have formed Aequa Sciences, a UK-based start-up that aims to provide inexpensive and safe solutions for Alzheimer’s disease.

EMBA participants Al L. Pineda, Jan Ruzicka, Loic Merckel and Czech professor Omar Sery have created Aequa Sciences, a start-up that aims to provide solutions and preventative measures for Alzheimer’s disease and other multifactorial diseases. The company plans to use neural network technology and big data to calculate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and provide patients with prevention measures. A neural network is a type of artificial learning system that operates analogously to the human brain. This results in a computer having accrued memory and quick thinking speed to find patterns between patient data. 

Finding solutions

Once a patient’s risk is assessed using this technology, prevention measures will be recommended. These measures may include lifestyle changes and food supplements derived from Western and traditional Chinese medicine to reduce the probability of development of the disease. “Due to demographic changes and financial tensions, there is more and more pressure on health payers to deliver affordable solutions on how to deal with long term diseases,” says Jan. “We believe that one of the most effective ways is to invest in better prediction techniques and deal with diseases before they start. Therefore, we believe in a combination of predictive methods and inexpensive personalised preventative food supplements to combat Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a multifactorial disorder characterised by a progressive decline of mental abilities leading to dementia and death. It is estimated that 35.6 million people lived with dementia worldwide in 2010, with numbers expected to almost double every 20 years. Omar says: “The primary goal of our project is not to extend human life, but to prolong healthy life, so that clients live to old age in good health. If we delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease just six months in a million people, it will rescue 500,000 years of quality life. I believe that with new technology and artificial intelligence, we can delay the onset of the disease by more than half a year.” Therefore, the company believes that an effective approach to solving this problem is needed and that a preventative approach is the most promising solution.

Using artificial intelligence

Although new DNA-analysing technologies have aided research into the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease, applying neural network methodology seems the most promising way forward in the development of predictive tests in the future. The company believes that the use of neural networks in the prediction of Alzheimer’s disease based on genetic analysis has not been exploited to the level it would merit. Loic says: “Recent advances in technology provide means of accruing ‘rich-but-crude’ DNA polymorphism data (differences in DNA sequences that make each human genome unique); machine learning data techniques give effective solutions to harness those data and find non-trivial patterns that are strong predictors of probable and undesirable future outcomes.” The group says that the advantage of this approach compared to conventional methods is that neural networks work in an unbiased, non-prejudicial way; independent of researchers, they analyse the given dataset and look for relationships that could possibly be missed by humans.

Aequa Sciences believes that healthcare research and business must be run with strong ethics. The group’s vision is to bring-to-market an inexpensive, safe solution that will be affordable to more than just the developed world. “To heal now with tomorrow’s technology is a vital underpinning of our work,” says Al. “This is only the beginning and in due time we will embark on alternative ways to combat diseases.”

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