By combining artificial intelligence (AI), neuroscience, and music, Lucid hopes to provide an alternative form of mental health therapy for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Through its app, the Toronto-based tech startup offers personalized, AI-curated playlists of songs designed to help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, and other neurocognitive conditions.

After completing its first randomized controlled clinical trial earlier this year, Lucid has now secured $3.14 million CAD in seed financing led by Canadian impact investment fund Amplify Capital with support from other investors in the health and music technology space. The funding will fuel further clinical research and the development of a prescription digital therapeutic focused on reducing agitation and anxiety in dementia care—work Lucid is doing in partnership with Japanese pharma company JT.

“This is much more than a feel-good app,” Amplify managing partner Kathryn Wortsman told BetaKit in an interview. “It is really rooted in clinical validation.”

Lucid co-founder and CTO Aaron Labbé began his journey into the music-as-therapy space after contending with “a lack of empathy during the care process” through his own personal mental health challenges. In 2012, Labbé suffered what he described as a serious mental health crisis while he was studying at SUNY Fredonia’s School of Music, which led to him being hospitalized after the mental breakdown he was experiencing caused a heart arrhythmia.

Following a series of misdiagnoses that saw him wrongfully prescribed anti-depressants—which exacerbated the manic episode he was experiencing and led to a stay at a mental healthcare institution—Labbé was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Bipolar I Disorder, which is the more severe of the two types, is defined by manic episodes that last at least seven days, or manic symptoms that are so severe that the person requires immediate hospital care. Those with Bipolar Disorder also experience depressive episodes that typically last at least two weeks

“The situation as a whole, that episode and how it was dealt with really drove forward this idea of, there’s got to be a better way,” Labbé told BetaKit in an interview. “There’s got to be a better way to care for people who are dealing with [mental health-related] symptoms, outside of just giving them a pill right away.”

Lucid’s genesis was as an undergraduate tech-meets-art thesis project produced by Labbé with the help of co-founder and chief innovation officer Zoë Thomson—a then biomedical engineering student—during Labbé’s undergraduate studies at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University).

Upon graduating, Labbé initially viewed Lucid as worthy of pursuing as a graduate-level research project, until one of his academic advisors suggested that its impact would be greater as a business. Following this advice, Labbé opted to spin it out into a business around 2017, and co-founder and CEO Zach McMahon joined a year later.

The all-equity round, which represents Lucid’s first venture financing to date, closed in June. In addition to Amplify, it saw participation from Relentless Venture Fund, the Pan-Canadian consortium MEDTEQ+, Ontario Centre of Innovation’s Market Readiness Co-Investment Fund, Reverb Ventures, Hunter Family Foundation, and Leva Capital. McMahon noted that while this capital gives Lucid two years of runway, the company also hopes to bring in up to an additional $1 million this fall from other strategic angels and healthtech investors.

For McMahon, who spent his 20s working in the oil and gas industry in the Arctic, saw a close family member suffer from mental illness, and wanted to do something that involved “less extraction [and] more giving back,” Lucid was a perfect fit.

Since 2017, much of Lucid’s focus has been on clinical evidence generation and validation. Thomson, along with Toronto Metropolitan University psychology professor Frank Russo—who now serves as Lucid’s chief science officer—have played an important role on the research front.

Lucid indeed seems to be a very innovative startup. Congratulations to the entire team and may you move up the ladder of success in coming future.

Shishir Gupta CEO & Founder Startuplanes

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