Mou and his co-founders developed Valera Health, a smartphone app that uses machine-learning algorithms to predict when patients aren’t doing well clinically. “Until now, psychiatry has suffered from a measurement issue—there is no clear blood test for depression or psychosis, ” says Mou. “However, psychiatry is a field that is defined by human behavior, and this is an attribute that has become increasingly quantifiable with one increasingly ubiquitous device: the smartphone.”
By leveraging smartphones to measure how many steps users take, how many hours they sleep, how often they text, and other variables, the Valera Health app helps dedicated case managers identify users whose behaviors suggest that they are in need of support. They can then proactively direct users to mental healthcare resources, potentially saving patients from hospital visits and decreasing healthcare costs. “The greater goal is to nudge the field of behavioral health towards preventive psychiatry and away from reactive psychiatry,” says Mou.
Mou is no stranger to the innovation community. Before Valera Health, he started and sold a medical education company and worked briefly at Fidelity Biosciences, a biotech VC. His background makes him particularly well suited to serve as the medical director of Valera Health, and to continue to grow the company. “Ultimately we aim to redefine how mental illnesses are understood,” Mou said of the Valera Health’s future goals. “By studying our data carefully using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, we can jettison a one-treatment-fits-all approach and usher in the practice of precision medicine.”
Abigail Ballou, Alexandra David, Shreya Iyer and Casey Nugent contributed to this story.
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