Yalie-led Startup Uses Machine Learning to Treat Depression


Last March, Adam Chekroud GRD ’20, Abhishek Chandra ’16 and April Koh’16 started Spring Care, an online data-driven tool that matches depression patients with treatment options to which they are more likely to respond.

Chekroud first devised an algorithm that used clinical trial data to determine whether depression patients would respond to different kinds of antidepressants as part of his PhD in psychology. At the same time, Chandra and Koh had just finished work at other startups, but had caught the “entrepreneurship bug” and were actively seeking their next project. Koh chanced upon Chekroud’s research while reading YaleNews, and she and Chandra decided to approach Chekroad for a meeting. “I saw [Chekroud’s research] had the potential to change the standard of care for behavioral health,” she said.

“From the day I met Abhishek and April I was blown away by their speed and ability,” said Chekroud, Chief Scientist at Spring Care. “We agreed pretty quickly that the best way forward would be to try a pilot run, and see how it goes working together for a couple of weeks. It was unbelievably fun! We got on really well, and got our first prototype up and running. From that point, it really was a no brainer to keep on working together, and I’m really glad we did.”

The team officially launched Spring Care in March 2016. Koh, the Chief Executive Officer of Spring Care, said the team is proud that they have a female CEO and that they are all immigrants: Koh Is Korean, Chandra is Indian and Chekroud is British-Algerian.

Chekroud, Chandra and Koh are all technical co-founders, which is unusual for a startup. Koh believes that this is the ideal situation. “Technical people can talk to each other,” said Koh. “They understand the limits of what is possible in a short period of time. They speak the same languages…We can all get into the code and contribute to the product. It helps us code faster and work faster.”

Despite their technical expertise, Chandra, the Chief Technology Officer at Spring Care, said the team is still able to play to their strengths. Koh is very well-equipped with business strategy, having witnessed her previous startup ‘Spylight’ grow from an idea into a business. Chandra can focus on the technical aspects of the product, and Chekroud brings in the literature that informs their strategy and product. As a PhD student, Chekroud can continue publishing in reputable journals to lend further credibility to the firm.

For all three co-founders, Spring Care resonated with what they wanted to do for life. Koh had two successful years in a fashion-related startup. “I then felt an urge to …do good… and I thought I could have a better impact in healthcare,” she said.

Chandra said that healthcare tends to reap the technologies present in other fields particularly slowly. “If there’s ever been a place where increments in technology is actually going to make a huge impact, it’s going to be healthcare…we need to get machine learning (something that should already be in healthcare) into healthcare to treat human lives,” he said.

Koh concurred: “There are wacky technologies out there that are completely unnecessary but yet we still have not figured out how to best treat patients. We should be applying machine learning to basic problems within healthcare.”

Chekroud said, “Our primary motivation was to try and help patients get better faster.”

Michelle Lim

Michelle is a freshman from sunny Singapore. Having had no exposure to entrepreneurship back in Singapore, she is excited about the many opportunities to explore entrepreneurship here at Yale. She is particularly passionate about how technology can transform education and healthcare. She plays in the Club Squash team and brainstorms ideas to change the world in Yale LAUNCH. Her hobbies include singing in the shower, watching musical theatre and writing about film.

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