Early detection of Alzheimer’s thanks to groundbreaking medical technology
The KTH Innovation Award 2023 goes to Padideh Kamali-Zare
At 14 she took care of her grandmother, who was diagnosed with mild dementia. Today, Padideh Kamali-Zare is the CEO and founder of biotech company Darmiyan.
“Just two days after my dear grandmother passed away, I started studying biological physics at KTH so I could help patients with brain diseases to enjoy longer, healthier and higher quality lives.”
Padideh Kamali-Zare is the recipient of the KTH Innovation Award 2023.
The 2023 KTH Innovation Award goes to Padideh Kamali-Zare. She is head of the innovative Silicon Valley-based biotech company Darmiyan , and she has been able to realise her vision of helping patients with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s to access better health and care.
The KTH Innovation Award rewards three qualities: creativity, grit, and courage. “It feels amazing to be acknowledged like this. I would really encourage all young entrepreneurs to think outside the box, to execute their vision and have the courage to change things,” says Kamali-Zare.
The company has developed BrainSee technology – a virtual microscope that illuminates brain tissue microstructure.
“Darmiyan is focused on developing medical technology that can detect Alzheimer’s in patients early on, and in a non-invasive and accurate way. Through geometric modelling and cloud-based AI modelling, we can determine how the brain is likely to develop and work five years into the future,” says Kamali-Zare.
A chance to higher quality of life
“Combined with factors such as age, gender and cognitive ability, which is measured on a scale, the BrainSee scoring makes it possible to predict the risk of brain disease with a high degree of accuracy.”
Kamali-Zare explains that a low score means the patient is less likely to be at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the next five years. While a higher score does indicate a higher risk, it also means the disease has been identified at an early stage.
“One of the major benefits of our technology is that it enables patients to plan their lives and future care in advance, before the disease has impaired their cognitive ability severely. That planning can include important decisions about medications, familial relations, insurance, support systems and accommodation – decisions that in turn can mean a higher quality of life for the patient as they age,” says Kamali-Zare.
According to her, the technology also means that patients with mild cognitive impairment do not have to worry needlessly about developing Alzheimer’s, since the risk of disease can be excluded on a yearly basis for the next five years to come.
Avoid unnecessary waiting time
“Patients avoid having to endure invasive medical tests unnecessarily, when those tests are not even answering their critical questions about developing dementia. The simple BrainSee analysis can be conducted every year, or more often if the person is at high risk of developing the disease in the future,” says Kamali-Zare.
Kamali-Zare was born and raised in Iran, and left for Sweden at age 23 to study Biological Physics and Neuroscience at KTH.
“I like the culture and mentality of Sweden a lot. The social system is based on collaboration and the equal value of everybody, and I’m impressed by the important dimension of thinking. Sweden is one of the world’s top countries when it comes to equal opportunities for women and men.”
Kamali-Zare lived in Stockholm for six years between 2004 and 2010, and took her doctorate in biological physics before moving to New York to do a postdoctoral research in computational neuroscience. One year after starting Darmiyan in New York she took the company to Silicon Valley in California.
“I started the company Darmiyan with friends and people whom I trusted the most. Now, we’re based in Berkeley, and on the cusp of large-scale commercialisation soon after the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, approves BrainSee for clinical use. This is expected in 2024,” she says.
Kamali-Zare’s future plan is to lead the company until it hits the growth stage and then “introduce fresh, young energy” to rapidly grow and expand the business.
“I want to focus less on administration and more on people and innovations, as a mentor and advisor, ideally with a link to KTH. I love sharing knowledge with other researchers and young entrepreneurs, and encouraging them to take the right path even thought it’s often the hard one.
Text: Katarina Ahlfort
Photo: Patrik Lundmark