Today Flow, a medical device company, announced raising $1.5 million in an investment round led by Khosla Ventures to combat mental health issues with science and tech. As the startup has just launched in June 2019 in Sweden and the UK, the capital will be used to further support its European rollout and fund clinical studies that will introduce Flow’s brain stimulation headset and therapy app to health clinics.
The startup was co-founded in 2016 by Daniel Mansson and Erik Rehn. With combined backgrounds in clinical psychology, computer networks, computational neuroscience and electrical engineering, they launched Flow to transform treatment of depression — a disease that affects over 300 million people worldwide and takes more lives than war, terrorism, and crime combined.
Flow’s first product, a medication-free treatment for depression, lies in the intersection of medtech, digital health, hardware, psychology and artificial intelligence. It combines a brain stimulation wearable and an app-based therapy program to create a new way to treat depression, at home.
People diagnosed with depression often have a lower activity in the left frontal cortex of their brain. The Flow medical device delivers a gentle electrical signal to stimulate this area and rebalance activity. During this process, users interact with a virtual therapy app which provides information and advice on various topics, including improved sleep, nutrition, meditation and exercise. A series of randomised controlled trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Journal of Psychiatry showed that brain stimulation, of the type used in the Flow headset, had a similar impact to antidepressants but with fewer and less-severe side effects.
Alexander Morgan, MD PhD, Principal at Khosla Ventures adds: " The research on tDCS shows efficacy similar to pharmacological treatment with antidepressants, and the Flow team worked hard to show safety, which earned them approval for sale in Europe as a Class IIa medical device. The technology combines portable hardware and software, and we believe this offers an exciting and scalable solution for potentially hundreds of millions of people living with depression globally, empowering patients directly with new options for treatment."
Daniel Mansson, Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Flow, believes that the startups solution can have "the potential to improve the standard of care, and reduce global healthcare costs.” With the economic costs of mental illness in England alone estimated at £105.2 billion annually, there definitely is a need for change. Already in talks with the NHS to have its medically approved brain stimulation headset available on prescription, Flow plans to work with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to seek regulatory clearance in the US next.