Mapping the brain with open data

Barcelona-based startup Mint Labs has a simple way of describing the complex work it does. “We sometimes call it Google Maps for the brain,” says co-founder and CEO Paulo Rodrigues, who started the company as a student 11 years ago.

That sound bite is an easily digestible way of understanding the company’s work as a cloud-based neuroimaging platform. Mint Labs helps neurologists, neurosurgeons and other experts in analysing and understanding neuroimaging data sets.

Rodrigues continues: “Our platform makes it straightforward to manage data from patients and to be able to quantify what’s happening in the images.

“A part of what we do is in clinical research, and there’s lots of data being created to map the brain. In research more and more, when a paper is published, the data is also published.

“We’re collecting and aggregating all of these different open data sets that are shared in the research community which are focusing on different areas: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS. The data is out there. What we do is aggregate all this data, put it all in one single space so our users don’t have to download it again and again – it’s all together in a centralised, standardised space. Our clients can then simply and easily apply their own analysis of the data.

Landon McKenna, COO and CFO of Mint Labs continues: “With proprietary data it becomes difficult to see if something is working, because you have nothing to benchmark it against. Open data gives us more information, we can use that to help us work towards a better diagnostic system.”

As their work involves clinical research and medical information, anonymisation is an essential process for Mint Labs. McKenna continues: “We do all the anonymisation before data comes into our system. We strip the data of all the unnecessary identifying information. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure all the data is anonymised, it’s a high priority for us.”

Rodrigues agrees: “It’s important that the data is anonymised, safe and secure. It’s important that our clients know our platform handles all of that for them.”

The team were part of the November 2016 ODINE cohort, and were the beneficiaries of a €100,000 (£87,000) grant. “The funding was very helpful in helping move things forward. Aside from the financial support, working with ODINE also helped us to focus on the open data aspect of our business, and how to make the best of an open data model.”

ODINE on Mint Labs

“Mint Labs understood that a platform that collects, processes and visualises huge amounts of neuroimaging open data could help drive innovation and develop new therapies. Their automated neuroimaging workflow platform will make a great contribution to the medical community, and will surely have a lasting impact.

“Since its time in the ODINE incubator, Mint Labs has been busy chasing down potential clients at top universities in the US and Portugal, as well as attending events such as RSNA (one of the lead exposure events in radiology market) to develop their business.”