Koye Pharma allies with Sonde on vocal biomarkers for COPD


Indian drugmaker Koye Pharma has partnered with Sonde Health to develop its vocal biomarker technology – which aims to diagnose diseases from voice patterns – for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Mumbai-based Koye is the first pharma company to partner with Sonde Health on the technology, which is also being used in a standalone app to monitor people's mental health and wellbeing.

The Indian company had already been working on its own vocal biomarker for respiratory diseases, but will now combine that with Sonde Health's technology to create a new biomarker specifically for the 50 million people living with COPD in India.

"This will allow Koye to develop solutions that help track and treat respiratory health in COPD patients using their voice," said the pharma company in a statement. The two companies plan to explore the development of additional vocal biomarkers during the multi-year alliance.

Boston, Massachusetts-based Sonde Health – a PureTech Health company – has previously tested the technology as a diagnostic for respiratory diseases.

Prior studies have shown that with only a six-second voice sample it may be possible to detect symptoms of asthma and COPD, and give an early warning for COVID-19 infections.

The new partnership "marks a major milestone in Sonde Health's growth and evolution," according to the company's chief executive David Liu.

"Partnering directly with pharmaceutical companies allows them to take a more targeted and engaging approach with prospective patients, aligning their needs with the most impactful therapeutics," he added.

Earlier this year, it partnered with hearing aid specialist GN Group to create vocal biomarker technology to detect mild cognitive impairment that can be an early warning signal for diseases like Alzheimer's.

Koye sells generic medicines, including COPD therapies such as Spirodin (doxofylline) and Spirodin-Ax (doxofylline and ambroxol), used to reduce open the airways and reduce coughing in patients with the respiratory condition.

"We have been keen on utilising an accessible platform with digital biomarkers that will both aid physicians in identifying and understanding their patients’ conditions better and also make it easier for patients with chronic respiratory conditions to monitor their health in the least invasive way possible," said the drugmaker's founder Preetish Toraskar.

In 2018, India had 18% of the world's population, but 32% of the COPD cases, according to the two partners, who note that COPD was responsible for 13% of all deaths in India in that year.

A 2019 study has estimated that India's death rate from COPD was 98 per 100,000 population, three times the American rate of 33 and the UK rate of 31.

Other groups working on vocal biomarkers for health applications include Cambridge University, Carnegie Mellon University, US company Hyfe and UK start-up Novoic.