When a parent finds out their child is diagnosed with autism—no matter where on the spectrum—they may not be sure where to turn. The label can have a dizzying amount of connotations and initial panic attached to it.
One new place parents can turn to is PrimeNeuro’s Sprout app. The Durham-based startup, which will present at CED’s Venture Connect (March 17-19), created an app to help children with autism and their parents, allowing parents to log symptoms and behavior while connecting with their care team for support.
This wasn’t PrimeNeuro’s first innovation to help families with children who have autism. The first came with its MRI analysis software, Brain Story, which is currently still in development. Brain Story will be able to inform a diagnosis for autism as early as six months of age, 18 months earlier than any other clinical test.
While working on Brain Story, PrimeNeuro Co-Founders Brad Bower (CEO) and Sam Tetlow (Chairman) soon discovered from speaking with parents just how much these parents and children could use a platform like Sprout.
“What was really interesting is what we heard from a lot of parents in this space is just there’s a need for more,” Bower said. “There’s a need for additional support. What we’ve found is they were getting the diagnosis and then it was a sort of a ‘then what?’ moment. ‘This gives me the sketch of what may happen or what my life might look like, but how do I fill in the gaps?’ That was really a pivotal moment for us because what we determined is that we also needed to fill this gap.”
Tetlow and Bower came together to form PrimeNeuro in 2018 from different backgrounds. Tetlow, a life science entrepreneur and investor, was drawn to the startup’s cause in part because his grandmother was a physician in 1950s England working with play as a therapeutic intervention for autism. Bower previously worked in startups for medical device research, most recently working on noninvasive concussion diagnostics.
The co-founders, brought together by a mutual acquaintance, said Sprout is an effective tool to reduce stress in both parents of and children with autism from the data aggregated on the app and connection to one’s care team.
“Life is easier,” Tetlow said about using Sprout. “It’s challenging to be a parent of a child with autism. It’s challenging to be a child with autism. Sprout just makes life easier and less stressed. The other thing that Sprout delivers, as Brad leads the company, it delivers an improved outcome for the kids. So there is a dramatic improvement in the quality of their life and how they interact with the world. And that is no small thing. That’s a big thing.”
Funding Could Help Accessibility
While PrimeNeuro is in a pre-revenue stage, they’ve gained support through $2.65 million funding from sources like the National Institute of Mental Health and UNC’s KickStart Venture Services. Sprout will likely use a monthly subscription business model, but Bower said PrimeNeuro is committed to exploring options to create accessibility for families for whom the expense would be an issue.
“I’ve been shocked and it just breaks my heart to hear these families talking about their struggle,” Bower said. “Nobody has it easy. Everybody had to claw their way to find the services they needed, to find the support they needed to figure out their path through this autism journey. And usually at the end of it, everybody’s asking, ‘So what does this mean? What does this mean for my life? What does it mean for my child?’ It’s really stressful. So I think what I believe that we can provide at PrimeNeuro is we can start to provide some comfort.”
Bower said that through the data compiled on Sprout, families can connect both with each other and the outside world with a better understanding of what’s happening in their lives and how autism interplays.
“We’ve got this core concept that data leads to understanding, understanding leads to empathy and empathy leads to connection, which I believe very dearly,” Bower said. “So what we think we can do with Sprout, with Brain Story, we’re collecting that data and processing in a way that will help people understand. When they can understand and share it with the outside world in a way that makes sense, then we can build up some empathy and actually build some of those bridges and break down those barriers, that isolation that families feel.”
Don’t miss PrimeNeuro present at Venture Connect Wednesday, March 18 in 301A/B. Bower said they are interested in connecting with more families, medical providers and anyone who believes in their mission.