February 2, 2022 in Blog, HealthTech, News from Our Companies, SBIR/STTR News

National Science Foundation Awards $1M to TQIntelligence to Eliminate Children’s Disparities in Mental Health Treatment Outcomes

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Dr. Yared Alemu, founder and CEO of TQIntelligence.
Yared Alemu, founder and clinical director of TQIntelligence.

TQIntelligence has been awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant for $1 million. The grant will be used to conduct research and development work that leverages human voice/speech and artificial intelligence (AI) to develop its voice biomarker technology. This will support mental health providers who focus on children and adolescents. The grant is very competitive and just five percent of applicant companies and educational institutions are awarded.

TQIntelligence, a health technology company in the Advanced Technology Development Center’s startup portfolio, seeks to eliminate disparities in mental health treatment outcomes, which are primary sources of chronic poverty and educational underachievement. Through voice biomarker and AI, TQIntelligence can identify mental health issues children in treatment may be unable to articulate to their therapists due to lack of insight and awareness. Youth from marginalized communities may also feel uncomfortable disclosing symptoms due to fear of repercussions. AI technology can identify the underlying emotional struggle for children in treatment who may lack the appropriate vocabulary to identify and express emotional distress.

The disparities in treatment outcomes for marginalized communities have real life consequences. According to aNational Institutes of Health-funded study, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Black children between 10 and 14 years old. For Black youth between the ages of 15 and 19, it is the third leading cause of death.

“Health equity is a serious social justice issue and children and adolescents in marginalized communities suffer disproportionately from pediatric trauma,” said Yared Alemu, Ph.D., 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.”

TQIntelligence uses voice biomarkers to support therapists at the time of care, during the counseling session to eliminate the disparities in treatment outcomes. Real-time feedback provides therapists with actionable data and identifies psychiatric symptoms that a novice and stressed therapist might otherwise miss, bridging gaps in mental health resources and quality of care.

“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,” said Andrea Belz, the National Science Foundation’s division director of the division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. “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.”

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $256,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II (up to $1 million). Small businesses with Phase II funding are also eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party equity investments.

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