Tailoring help for depression

A doctor takes on the global burden of depression with help from the Melbourne Accelerator Program.

Dr Ajeet Singh credits the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)
Dr Ajeet Singh

A year ago, Dr Ajeet Singh was a man with an excellent idea. He just didn’t have sufficient business skill to translate that great idea into reality.

Today, Dr Singh, a practising psychiatrist, has four full-time staff working with his company CNSDose on a procedure that is likely to ease the way for many depression sufferers. He credits the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) to helping him get this far so quickly.

MAP – a leading entrepreneurship program that puts people with a business idea or a start-up on a fast track – was seeded by the University in 2012.

Its record speaks for itself, with 34 companies going on to garner over $30 million in funding, creating more than 220 jobs and generating more than $20 million in revenue.

CNSDose is one of the big success stories, with its product nearing release. Dr Singh’s idea is simple: patients give a saliva sample to their doctor, a lab analyses the genes involved and then assesses how easy or hard it is for certain anti-depressant medications to reach that person’s brain.

“Based on that, we get guidance on 20 different anti-depressants and whether they need to be a high, medium or low dose for that patient,” Dr Singh says.

A great deal of prescribing in psychiatry is trial and error, and I wanted to tackle that with a technology that is affordable.

MAP offered Dr Singh a five-month experience of accelerated learning about pitching and business thinking to help him understand how to proceed. “I would describe myself as an accidental entrepreneur,” he says. “Because I am a clinician, I didn’t have much experience in what I still call the business world.”

"It is unique in that it is a turbo-charged learning and support structure,” he says.

Dr Singh was adamant he wanted to be commercially viable while maintaining his generosity of spirit, an approach MAP encourages. Dr Singh was delighted to discover at MAP a culture of people having a go.

In the past, if you tried to commercialise academic output you used to be seen as an outsider. Now it is championed.

A big supporter has been MAP Director Rohan Workman, who brought Dr Singh in last year for the June-October program, which targets eligible University of Melbourne students and alumni.

While an obvious aim is commercial success, MAP also has a social entrepreneurship program designed to infuse those who identify as social entrepreneurs with business skills, and to broaden the horizons of those who identify as for-profit entrepreneurs about social impact. In turn, that ethos reflects on and encourages the collegiate and altruistic work that underpins MAP.

To learn more about the Melbourne Accelerator Program, visit the MAP website.

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