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‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, Japan, has throughout history, been one of the frontrunners in innovation. From the secret sword-making techniques of smiths back in the feudal era to the invention of efficient bullet-trains today, the country has always paved the way for excellence.
As a proud Japanese technology leader, Yosuke Toyama always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors and do his part to make the world a better place to live in. And when one of his older family members became demented, he realized that as one of the modern world’s first ‘super-aged’ societies, a lot of senior citizens in Japan were at risk of falling prey to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Subsequently, when the World Dementia Council predicted the ageing population of Japan to cause a surge in the number of dementia patients: a total of 13 million patients by the year 2025, Toyama started bspr Inc. as a way to curb the effects of this grim statistic. With a mission to solve the prevalent social issues using technology innovations, Toyama then gathered a team of highly passionate and experienced individuals from the worlds of healthcare and technology. As an organization, bspr Inc. is dedicated to making the treatment for dementia easily accessible to every family that needs it. “As an individual with firsthand experience in caring for a patient with dementia, I recognized how effective treatment for the disease could help a lot of people, patients and otherwise, live longer and happier lives,” says Yosuke Toyama, CEO at bspr Inc.
Cognitive Technology Backed by Renowned Research
Founded in 2012, bspr Inc. currently offers a comprehensive brain health service for dementia patients in Japan and the world at large. And as Toyama and his partners began assessing the steps for the development of an effective treatment avenue for dementia, they found Dr Miia Kivipelto’s Finnish Geriatric Intervention (FINGER) study to prevent cognitive impairment and disability. According to the research, to counter the cognitive decline, an individual has to focus on four key facets in their everyday life—diet, exercise, health monitoring, and memory training. Alongside the insights from the FINGER study, bspr also combined research performed by various other academic and scientific institutions. These include studies from Nakonojo Research—a health and long-life medical centre in Tokyo, Kyushu and Tohoku universities in Miyagi and Fukuoka, Japan, as well as leading institutes in the U.S. such as the University of Wisconsin and the National Institute of Longevity.
After compiling critical data sets from these dementia-related studies, bspr Inc. developed a smartphone application, called ‘Braincure,’ which the company plans to turn into a certified treatment avenue for dementia in the future.
We aim to turn Braincure’s status as the world’s first comprehensive brain health service app into a clinically-certified treatment for dementia by conducting clinical trials to showcase its efficacy and safety
With such core competencies, bspr Inc. has already received widespread praise for the application’s success in the healthcare space. In joint research with a leading Japanese medical institute, the company witnessed that 96 per cent of Braincure’s users had a significant increase of grey matter. Currently, the application offers modules to offer customizable exercise, brain training, diet, and self-assessment regimens that are designed to notify users based on their activity and continuation rate, and help them improve cognition.
On the other hand, the company’s family site service enables users to communicate with their family as well as healthcare professionals and allows them to share information on their improvement securely. This helps medical practitioners get a real-time assessment of a user’s cognition and facilitates quick consultation for cognitive maintenance and development. The site also allows patients to track their cognitive improvement, which further motivates them to continue their battle against dementia.
Expanding the Horizons of Cognitive Technology Applications
bspr Inc. is also planning to expand the use of its application and services portfolio to other market sectors in Japan. “We are looking to collaborate with banks, insurance firms, automobile manufacturers, and more, as they start the development of products and offerings that are geared toward an older audience,” adds Toyama.
Actually, bspr Inc. has several industry-specific endeavours currently under development, which include collaborations with leading firms in markets besides healthcare. For instance, in the case of banks, the company plans to develop partner services specially designed to aid elderly customers and their family, and customers at risk of dementia and their families in their banking experience are enabling seamless traversal. Alternatively, in the realm of insurance, bspr Inc. provides an app that helps maintain the brain health of the elderly and provides the insurance company with data on the app's activity to help optimize insurance premiums. To this end, bspr Inc. allied with Dai-ichi Life—a leading insurance firm in Japan—to make Braincure their go-to incidental service for dementia insurance in 2019.
“Braincure promotes exercise, eating, and learning while offering functionalities such as test services for cognition and a ‘family site’ to increase the activity continuation rates among users.”
Furthermore, cognitive function tests have become popular in Japan. Since March 2017, the National Police Agency has made it mandatory for elderly drivers (more than 6 million in Japan) to update their driver's license without passing the cognitive function test. According to National Police Agency statistics, people with an inspection score of less than 49 are three times more likely to have an accident. As an antidote to this issue, bspr Inc. offers its web-based cognitive function testing service to spread awareness on the correlation between cognition and safe driving. In the last two years, this service has been used by over 100,000 people with the number rising with each passing day. By using this cognitive function test service, he/she knows the state of one's cognitive function, and creates an opportunity to raise awareness of safe driving and judge whether to return a license. bspr Inc. is applying this technology to provide a service for the transportation company to measure the driver's cognitive function, and also provides a function that allows the business management operator of the transportation company to promote safe driving operations.
“Healthcare including cognitive has the potential to be a service that can be combined with various businesses and create new value, and we are also challenging it now. Just like Niantic expanded the functionalities of its Ingress app to create Pokémon GO, we plan to expand the applications of our portfolio beyond healthcare,” mentions Toyama.
A Future of Healthy Cognition
Since its launch in 2017, Braincure has helped bspr Inc. bag several wins. In 2018, the company won the BHQ Challenge at the Cabinet Office’s ImPACT program and the Fintech Business Contest, while in 2018, bspr Inc. was a semi-finalist at the JHEC2018, which is held by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The company’s track record for success continued further as it won several other accolades in 2019 and 2020 as well.
Today, the company’s Braincure application has the highest market share in Japan for dementia prevention. Toyama believes the hard work, passion, and competence of his team is the core reason behind its success and promises to continue developing additional functionalities and delivering a suite of offerings that ensures a significant improvement in a user’s cognition. Looking ahead, Toyama aims to turn Braincure’s status as the world’s first comprehensive brain health service app into a clinically-approved treatment for dementia by conducting clinical trials to showcase its efficacy and safety.