HMH invests in Canary Speech; AI software helps detect potential health problems in speech patterns

Communication | Young woman talking and alphabet letters coming out from her mouth and head

Hackensack Meridian Health and its Bear’s Den innovation accelerator program are making a strategic investment in Canary Speech, a company that uncovers valuable insights to disease and well-being encoded in human speech.

Developed by the neurology and speech AI team behind Amazon Alexa, Canary Speech powers first-of-its-kind insight into the full applications of vocal biomarkers in health care. Its patented technology monitors a variety of health factors in a fast, noninvasive and accurate way: by assessing “digital biomarkers” in the human voice to explain or predict energy levels, and health-related outcomes. The technology tracks the presence and severity of a variety of targeted diseases, such as anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. The resulting Vocal Scores can replace subjective measurements with objective, actionable care solutions.

Bear’s Den portfolio companies

Established in 2017 through a $25 million investment from Hackensack Meridian Health, the Bear’s Den panel assesses approximately 200 companies and early-stage ideas each year. In addition to potential funding opportunities, or strategic relationships with Hackensack Meridian Health, venture capitalists may choose to make separate investments in Bear’s Den innovations.

“This is a fascinating innovation, and we’re eager to support a promising way to leverage technology for wellness,’’ Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, said. “Artificial intelligence is impacting every aspect of modern life, and our health network wants to help accelerate the efforts of companies like Canary Speech.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Hackensack Meridian Health, and welcome their support,” Henry O’Connell, Canary Speech co-founder and CEO, stated.

Canary Speech’s patented speech analysis technology provides clinical-grade screening for mood states and disease using proprietary machine-learning modeling.

The human voice inherently reveals both emotional and physiological states. Canary’s technology unlocks voice as a vital sign unto itself, modeling both acoustic and linguistic features to measure stress, mood and energy within the patterns, inflections and timing of those words.

Aimed at providing proactive screening in real-time, Canary’s algorithms are built to augment standardized clinical assessments like GAD7 (for anxiety) and PHQ8 (for depression). The company provides clinical-grade screening to detect changing emotional wellness states and mental-health deterioration in real-time.

Beyond anxiety, stress, energy and mental health status, Canary Speech is also researching the assessment of a series of other afflictions through the voice, including: Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and others.

“Investment of this kind is a smart strategic move, with an eye toward the future,” Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, Hackensack Meridian Health’s president of academics, research and innovation, and founding chair of the Hackensack Meridian Health Research Institute, said.