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July 20, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Gupta pursuing passions for analytics through teaching, new start-up

GigTank-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles profiling some of the companies involved in the 2014 “GIGTANK” hosted by Chattanooga’s “CO.LAB.” All of the companies make their pitches on July 29 at “Demo Day.” To register, click.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“The type of technology innovation happening here really attracted me,” Ashish Gupta told us during a recent discussion at Chattanooga’s CO.LAB where he and his team are developing a new company named Cognitics.

The Associate Professor of Analytics and Information Systems in the College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) arrived in the community less than a year ago, turning down a higher profile and more lucrative position at Arizona State University that also included a joint appointment at the famed Mayo Clinic.

It was a big decision, but one that Gupta does not regret. The attractiveness of Chattanooga’s famed gigabit network, UTC’s College of Business focus on analytics, and the collaboration environment in the community were key factors in the choice that he made.

“I’m pretty happy here,” Gupta says. We’ve talked to a number of other community leaders who share the same feelings for this soft spoken, but driven individual. UTC Dean Robert Dooley says his faculty member never sleeps and is constantly coming-up with new ideas.

The concept that is currently consuming a considerable portion of Gupta’s attention is Cognitics, a start-up that is part of the current cohort of companies going through CO.LAB’s “GIGTANK.”

He describes the initiative as “cognitics,” reflecting the combination of cognitive research with the rapidly emerging field of analytics. In the case of his new company, it is focused on helping individuals afflicted with cognitive disorders live better lives.

“It’s more like a recommendation system . . . but personalized,” Gupta says as he describes the ups and downs that patients with cognitive disorders like depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Mild Traumatic Brain Injury(MTBI), amnesia, dementia, and delirium face. For many, the only treatment is prescription drugs.

The Cognitics team is working to develop a “timely intervention system” that could reduce dependence on medications, thereby improving lifestyle while also reducing costs.

The energetic Gupta drew a diagram of the concept that, in essence, combines clinical data from electronic medical records with a variety of sensors that capture everything from the environment in which an individual lives to specific personal data captured through wearable devices. Adding individual preferences and applying advanced analytics provide the ultimate product – a prediction and recommendation system personalized for individuals.

“The idea has evolved over time,” he acknowledges, adding that “cognitive data is hard to capture.” For Gupta, that’s the challenge . . . going where others have not.

“At my core, I’m a scientist,” he says.

Gupta believes the intervention approach should be of interest to individuals and payers like insurance companies. At the same time, he asks and answers his own question: “How are we going to generate revenue? I haven’t gone that far, but this is of value and interest to several stakeholders, which includes patients.”

Cognitics involves four students from UTC who have received analytics training from Gupta, were selected to receive UTC-CO.LAB fellowship, and are working to stand-up the company. He says they will have a prototype by July 29 – “GIGTANK Demo Day” – and are already planning a healthcare analytics conference in mid-October in Chattanooga.

For Gupta, there’s much to do and so much opportunity in Chattanooga.

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