Imperial College London

Startup profile: Wavepaths

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A Wavepaths user undergoing a guided experience

A Wavepaths user undergoes a guided music experience

Wavepaths applies research and understanding developed at Imperial to a consumer wellbeing solution based on the principles of psychedelic therapy.

A former Imperial researcher, Dr Mendel Kaelen, has founded Wavepaths, a wellbeing startup focused on providing music experiences for and as psychedelic therapy.

Dr Kaelen was inspired to found Wavepaths while he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial. During his PhD and post-doctoral work in the use of psychedelic drugs as a treatment for depression, addiction and trauma, he discovered the importance of music in predicting positive therapeutic outcomes. He has published more than 30 academic papers and is cited in over 2000.

The problem

Depression is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. According to the WHO, more than 264 million individuals worldwide suffer from depression, across all age groups.

There has been relatively little innovation in the field of mental health treatment over the past 70 years. The efficacy of psychiatric treatment for depression, for example, has not increased at all during this period. Though there are effective depression treatments available, a substantial proportion of patients remain symptomatic, and up to 30% are unresponsive or resistant to treatment attempts.

Wavepaths’ approach

Mendel’s research into a form of experiential therapy using psychedelics, often called psychedelic therapy, which has shown efficacy in the treatment of depression, anxiety and addiction, led to the discovery that the drug used during the treatment was not the central cause of therapeutic effect. Instead, certain elements of the patient experience, and especially music, were important to predict therapeutic outcomes.

Wavepaths works with experience designers, musicians (including Jon Hopkins, Robert Rich and Greg Haines) and experts in the fields of psychotherapy and neuroscience to create therapeutic music-experiences for users, aimed at improving their wellbeing.

“Wavepaths is founded on the insight that the future of mental health care will facilitate ‘Experience as Medicine’, and that the skilful application of music for this purpose will be a core need across this entire new industry.” – Mendel Kaelen.

Wavepaths’ journey so far

A key component of Wavepath’s offering is its adaptive AI music-generation technology. The technology is developed to dynamically generate music according to empirically distinct therapeutic categories and individual music preferences and needs.

The technology has been prototyped extensively, first at a sold-out pop-up Space in 2019, including collaborations between Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, Greg Haines and L-Acoustics, resulting in a waitlist of thousands of people. As well as generating extraordinary press coverage, this pop-up space offered Wavepaths the opportunity to conduct research studies and explore customer satisfaction.

Nearly 70% of visitors requested a return trip, and 98% reported an improvement in well-being. 88% said they felt calm after the experience, while 86% reported they felt their time in the Space was personally meaningful.

Wavepaths has since then developed and made available a beta clinical application and a beta consumer experience – available from http://www.wavepaths.com . Since COVID-19, Wavepaths focusses on making its technology more widely available via consumer experiences and clinical partnerships.

“Since our pop-up space, we have gained exceptional traffic on both on the B2C and B2B side and have positioned ourselves as the go-to-expert for music-based health solutions. As we continue to beat industry growth- and marketing bench-marks with our beta-applications, we are now readying ourselves for a public launch in 2020” – Mendel Kaelen

Wavepaths and Imperial

As well as studying at Imperial, Mendel and Wavepaths benefitted from an EIT grant that was managed by the Enterprise Division.

“My time at Imperial as a researcher has equipped me with an incredible foundation of science, and a systematic way of tackling problems that I came to realise is not at all a standard, yet is so critical for building a successful company. It is therefore fantastic to continue to grow and innovate together.” – Mendel Kaelen.

Brijesh Roy, Seed Investment Manager at Imperial, sees Wavepaths as representative of what’s so exciting about the Imperial startup ecosystem: “What’s great about the support that’s available at Imperial is that it enables individuals who’ve already received a high quality education from a world-leading university to test out ideas, find like-minded co-founders, engage with mentors and find support to interact with customers right from the off. What that means is that we see startups ranging from deep science to pure consumer plays, and ideas like Wavepaths which combine the two.”

Engaging with the Imperial startup ecosystem

The Imperial startup ecosystem generates a diverse range of companies each year, with founders including students, researchers, alumni – and often a combination of all three.

To find out how you can engage with our startups, contact the Startup Team.

Businesses in all sectors can find out more about the ways they can benefit from Imperial’s expertise, resources and talent by visiting the Enterprise Division’s web pages, where they can learn about opportunities to engage and join the mailing list.

Academics interested in working with industry can also find out about increasing the impact of their research, through routes including research partnerships, commercialisation and consultancy from the Enterprise Division's staff home page.

Reporter

Gavin Reed

Gavin Reed
Enterprise

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