Mental Health Vocal Biomarker Startup TQIntelligence Scores National Science Foundation Grant
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a $1 million grant to mental health vocal biomarker startup TQIntelligence. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding is earmarked for the Atlanta-based startup to research how to use AI to diagnose potential mental health concerns by analyzing audio recordings of children and teenagers talking.
TQIntelligence has developed an AI tool for analyzing speech patterns for indicators of mental distress like anxiety and depression. The proprietary algorithm learns from existing datasets what kinds of subtle speech patterns might indicate concerns and shares real-time feedback with therapists, including ideas on what psychiatric symptoms the patient might exhibit. Vocal biomarkers could be very helpful with younger people who struggle with trying to explain how they are feeling or are reluctant to open up to therapists or counselors. Spotting depression and other mental health struggles early might reduce the rate of suicide and other harmful behavior. TQIntelligence pitches the tech as a support for more traditional therapy, especially in underserved communities with limited mental health resources.
“Health equity is a serious social justice issue and children and adolescents in marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from pediatric trauma,” said Dr. Yared Alemu, founder and chief executive officer of TQIntelligence. “By introducing objective data, transparency and accountability to the process, we can transform behavioral healthcare for at-risk youth.”
Mental Health Vocal Biomarkers
TQIntelligence is one of a growing number of vocal biomarker startups interested in applying voice AI to mental health, such as the mobile app and API Sonde Health released in October to analyze mental health through voice recordings. There’s a growing pipeline of funds for the industry as well. Ellipsis Health picked up $26 million to grow its depression and anxiety voice test last fall, not long after mental health vocal biomarker startup Kintsugi closed an $8 million funding round. Picking up the NSF grant is a significant win for TQIntelligence, however, as only 5% of applicants receive requested funding.
“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” NSF division director Andrea Belz said. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”