Cogthera in conversation - Digital innovation for cognitive health

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

In an exclusive interview with Hannes Funk, CEO of Cogthera, we delve into the world of digital innovations for cognitive health. Hannes explains how their Cogthera app helps people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mild dementia to boost their memory. The app focuses in particular on the complex process of thought transmission from sensory reception to long-term memory, controlled almost exclusively by speech and customised to the user's needs.

How would you explain your solution in three sentences to a professional colleague from the health sector?

"With the Cogthera app, people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mild dementia can improve their memory, specifically promoting the process of how thoughts are transferred from an initial sensory input via the short-term to the long-term memory. To make it as efficient as possible, the app is controlled almost exclusively by voice. In addition, the difficulty of the exercises automatically adapts to the user's personal requirements."

What problem motivated you to start the company?

"Initially, we saw great demand from patients and doctors when it came to the topic of MCI and early dementia. Until now, there has only been a limited range of options in terms of intervention, which often follows a one-size-fits-all approach, which has disadvantages for individual clinical pictures such as MCI and early dementia. Our digital products have the advantage that they can be individually adapted to people with MCI/mild dementia. This allows us to expand the range of options with what we believe is a very valuable option. We are also helped by the fact that our founders, three professors, can draw on more than 20 years of research into dementia."

How do you convince a pharmaceutical company, a health insurance company or another potential client to set up a pilot project with you?

"For pharmaceutical companies, we are valuable as a cognitive intervention that offers a complement to pharmacological therapy for MCI and early dementia, which is currently being tested intensively in clinical trials. Our intervention could also help those people who are not suitable for such drug therapy but still need an intervention. In addition to these effects, an additional digital option for pharmaceutical companies can obviously represent an interesting differentiation from other companies. 
As a result of demographic change, the topic of MCI and early dementia will play an even greater role for health insurance companies than it already does today. This makes it all the more important to provide customers with appropriate offers and to make the portfolio even more attractive in this respect. An app that can be used independently at home without the help of third parties and has a positive effect on the insured person's memory is a low-threshold offer that strengthens the insurance company's portfolio, but can also have health economic benefits, be it in terms of costs for other therapies or care. 
In both cases, however, it is important that the app should be used by people who have cognitive impairments, but who often also have limited digital literacy due to their age. With our voice-based operation, we have a solution that offers an intuitive and appealing experience."

Who are your current customer (groups) and who do you want your potential customers to be?

"We are currently in the final stages of the CE process as a medical device. Our goal is to enable people with MCI and mild dementia to access our app in the near future in a way that reflects the added value of the app, which we are very convinced of, and also fits in with the reality of care for people in Germany. We believe that any kind of collaboration with insurance companies is very suitable for this, simply because we see great advantages in such a collaboration, both from a supply and a sales perspective."

Where do you see yourself in 3 years and how can 5-HT support you?

"Then we want to have established our medical device app as a highly valued option for people with MCI and early dementia. We also want to have digitized steps of the dementia patient journey beyond the intervention, which we are already working on. 
I am sure that 5-HT will be as much of a help as you already are: your expertise, your events, all of that has always been very helpful to us. We look forward to continuing to work with you on our vision in the future!"

You participated in the Insuring Digital Health in October 2023. What is your impression of the event and what have you gained (so far) from participating?

"The first impression was as we know it from your other events: Perfectly organized, cool setting, exciting start-ups and interesting people to talk to. The speed dating with the insurance companies was particularly informative for us. This made it even clearer what insurance companies expect and how our offer fits into their portfolio. I thought it was particularly good that they simply said when things didn't fit without beating around the bush. 
We made a few connections at the event, with whom we are now talking much more concretely about potential collaborations. We're looking forward to what's to come!"

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