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Baycrest innovation leads to partnership with Johnson & Johnson
September 17, 2015 Cogniciti Inc., the Toronto-based developer of a 20-minute online cognitive test for adults concerned about memory changes, announced on Sept. 16, 2015 a collaboration agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to evaluate online screening strategies for early identification of dementia.

Cogniciti Inc. is a for-profit joint venture between Baycrest Health Sciences and MaRS Discovery District, with a mandate to bring science-based brain health solutions to people, businesses and governments around the world. Since its online brain health test was introduced to the public in 2014, more than 36,000 adults from 70 countries have taken it.

This collaboration, facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, will explore the potential for online psychometric tests, such as the Cogniciti brain health test, to help identify adults at risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Currently available pharmaceutical products are approved to only treat symptoms (such as memory loss), and not the underlying neurodegenerative disease. It will be important for novel Alzheimer’s treatments to target patients at the earliest stages of illness before the disease has significantly progressed.

“This collaboration is an exciting milestone for Cogniciti, and a testament to the cutting edge cognitive science, entrepreneurship and innovation in this province and country,” said Michael Meagher, president of Cogniciti. “Cogniciti’s cognitive assessment has the potential to accelerate the development of disease-modifying solutions for Alzheimer’s patients.”

Based on decades of cognitive science research at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, the quick and accessible Cogniciti brain health assessment is designed as a series of game-like tests that tap into cognitive abilities (such as memory and attention). Adults aged 50-79 are invited to take the test online and receive a summary score representing performance on the cognitive test immediately afterward.

According to the test’s creators, the majority of adults concerned about Alzheimer’s disease will score in the normal, healthy range for their age and education. For the small percentage (approximately 2 – 3%) that scores below average, those adults will be encouraged to print their personalized report and take it to their doctor.

It is suspected that the disease process for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia begins in the brain several years before a person starts to experience symptoms. Earlier treatment may improve quality of life for affected patients.

Identifying the right profile of “at-risk” adults in sufficiently large numbers to develop those treatments, is key to solving one of the world’s most debilitating afflictions. Identification of elderly individuals in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive decline may be an important component of screening and identification of at-risk individuals.

This collaboration agreement is an early demonstration of the impact of the federal and Ontario governments’ Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI), housed at Baycrest, announced in May 2015. Cogniciti Inc. is one of 40 founding partners of the CC-ABHI which includes leading industry, academic, public sector and not-for-profit organizations.

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