Amicus Brain: Using AI to Get Caregivers the Trusted Advice They Need

By Mark Ogilbee posted 02-17-2023 12:09 PM


Amicus Brain Innovations, an AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant, is a digital health platform that leverages the power of AI technology to reimagine care management for people living with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. 

Founder and CEO Dr. Chitra Dorai took some time to tell us about Amicus Brain’s mission and the joy of finding deep meaning in the work she does. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Can you describe Amicus Brain Innovations for us? 

The mission of Amicus Brain is to transform caregiving for people who care for aging adults with neurodegenerative disorders. Alzheimer’s and related dementias have a unique progression: Theyre slow to progress and last a long period of time. On average, people with these cognitive disorders live about 4-8 years after their diagnosis, with the disease progressing and manifesting in psychological and behavioral issues. 

Getting a dementia diagnosis is heartbreaking for the person, but it’s also completely disruptive for the family, especially those who are caring for them. Amicus Brain is focused on reducing the caregiver burden with AI-assisted technology that caregivers can access anywhere, anytime, in just about any language, so that they’re never lacking high-quality, trusted advice and resources for caregiving. Amicus Brain is a trusted partner in every aspect of care management, from diagnosis to death, with its care platform and AI advisor apps enabling easier and better caregiving and sustaining aging at home. 


How do caregivers use Amicus Brain? 

You sign up with our service on your phone or device of your choice and voila! You have access to Keiko, our AI advisor who addresses care needs that come up throughout disease progression. In Japanese, one of the meanings of Keikois joy. Caregiving is such a harrowing journey, and I love that our technology can be thought of as bringing a moment of joy to the caregivers by getting the reliable answers and support they need instantaneously. 

You interact with Keiko using a natural, conversational style: “Mom is being very difficult today. What can I do?” Or: “Why is my mom refusing to take her medicine?” Keiko is a care advisor that imparts knowledge in the moment of need with actionable, evidence-based insights and proven strategies that you can immediately put into action, so you don’t have to spend hours on the internet chasing down topics and links, or worrying about whether you can trust the information you find. Keiko can help you find vetted resources in your local neighborhood, and can help with caregivers' needs for their well-being, too. We have an online community that provides a safe, private space where you can lean on other caregivers going through a similar situation. 

We also have a very useful tool that helps you keep track of how the cognitive change is progressing in your loved one, so the next time the doctor asks questions, you have specific answers.  


What’s the origin story behind Amicus Brain? 

I was an AI scientist at IBM for 20 years, with a record of peer-reviewed research publications and awards. I was an inventor with high-value patents, and I was fortunate to receive a lot of recognition for the work I have done, from helping emergency responders to enabling homeowners keep their homes during the housing crisis. Life couldn’t have been better — but destiny had a different plan. 

The same year I was appointed as an IBM Fellow, my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and I started my role as a caregiver. Until her death last year, I personally experienced what it takes to care for a person living with a neurodegenerative disorder. And I wasn’t alone in that journey — more than 11 million Americans serve their loved ones living with dementia, and we’re all doing the same thing: turning to the web or calling around to get the information, advice and training we need to handle caregiving tasks. 

I resolved to do this in a different way, to reduce the burden and the burnout, save time and make caregiving decisions easier. I felt that technology could provide a trusted environment in which caregivers can ask very personal questions and get actionable insights that they can use to become a better caregiver and reduce their own stress. So, I quit my job and used my life savings to start Amicus Brain and build the first prototype. 


It sounds like this is meaningful work for you. 

Amicus Brain is what I’m meant to do in this part of my life, and I get to do something meaningful every day. There are an amazing number of good people in the world with great talent, who want to be part of a worthwhile endeavor that has social impact. Amicus Brain is fortunate to have people like that and I am excited to create insightful solutions with them daily. I like to paraphrase the American mathematician Richard Hamming, who said it so beautifully: “If you do not work on important problems, it is unlikely you will do important work.” At Amicus Brain, we do important work by addressing an important problem for our society. 


What kind of challenges have you faced on this journey of building Amicus Brain? 

Little did I expect that female-founded companies would still encounter an imbalance in terms of attracting funding. Change is in the wind, but it’s slow — the reality is that women founders contend with challenges ranging from skepticism to outright hostility. We encounter implicit biases, just to get the doors open. I’m an established researcher with a track record of innovations and industry impact and even that didn’t easily parlay into any immediate advantage. 


What advice would you give to startup founders just getting started in the AgeTech space? 

An important part of building robust, meaningful, thoughtful aging-focused solutions is to work with people with lived experiences. We benefited immensely from listening to lots and lots of people and co-creating with people who live with dementia and those who care for them  from families and professional carers to clinicians. That’s why our offering is so intuitive: We understand that when you’re in the middle of a caregiving task and literally holding your mom, for example, you don’t want to mess with menus and buttons. Instead, you just talk to Keiko. That’s a deep understanding of what our users really need in care situations. I worry that if AgeTech innovators don’t co-create their solutions with people who have those lived experiences, their solutions will run the risk of lack of adoption and won’t be able to make a meaningful impact. 

To learn more about Amicus Brain, visit their website.