Empowering parents & caregivers to identify toxic stress in children with Bryon Bhagwandin CEO of Recalibrate Solutions

 

 

Stress is part of life but a dysregulated stress system should not be. Unfortunately, many children experience stress so frequently that it becomes toxic. This not only impairs their executive brain function but also creates a dysregulated stress system which makes them magnitudes more likely to suffer from health problems later in life.

To make matters worse, a dysregulated stress system is not easily identifiable in today's healthcare especially for a child. In America alone, 16% of infants and children are at risk for stress related illnesses. Their stress lies under their skin.

How do we find those kids? Today’s guest is Dr. Bryon Bhagwandin, the Co-Founder and CEO at Recalibrate Solutions is solving for that. His team at Recalibrate Solutions is empowering physicians to eliminate toxic stress from the lives of children by monitoring stress system development with a 5-minute, disposable, saliva cortisol test.

If you are a parent or caregiver, you'll want to tune into what they're up to at Recalibrate. If you want to get involved as an investor, please visit their website or contact Dr. Bryon on LinkedIn.

About Bryon
Dr. Bhagwandin is the Co-Founder and CEO at Recalibrate Solutions. He has served as an executive for multiple start-up companies.  He has spent more than 20 years in medical product development, and possesses a remarkable combination of technical expertise, leadership, and business acumen. He has been awarded two degrees in physics and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. Dr. Bhagwandin has led multiple product development teams, successfully creating diagnostic, therapeutic, and drug-device combination products.

Dr. Bhagwandin understands the unique business challenges that must be navigated by medical device companies – design-controls, quality-system compliance, internal review boards, clinical testing, regulatory submissions, insurance codes, reimbursement models, hospital purchasing-cycles, and marketing through scientific research and peer review publications – a truly unique space.  For more information about Dr. Bhagwandin, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryonbhagwandin/

About Recalibrate Solutions
Decades of research has linked exposure to childhood adversity to a range of long-term negative outcomes, including the famous large-scale ACEs study which reported in 1998 that exposure to childhood adversity dramatically increases the risk for 7 out of 10 of the leading causes of death in America. The effects of stress exposure can begin to accumulate in the womb, and early childhood stress in particular, can have serious long-term effects including for achievement, depression, addiction, risk-taking and suicidality.

Today, there are no accessible, cost-effective, tools available that can readily be deployed to monitor stress system development. Envision the day when monitoring the health of a child's stress response system is an integral part of evaluating child development. 

Our assessment tool is a five-minute, disposable, saliva based, cortisol test that can be conducted using 2-3 drops of saliva. 

Show Notes:
https://www.recalibratesolutions.com/about
How it works: https://youtu.be/FK8kdQWgFZU
Bryon' LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryonbhagwandin/

Qualio
Previous episodes: https://www.qualio.com/from-lab-to-launch-podcast

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Music by keldez

Transcript

Transcript is automatically generated. Please kindly excuse any grammatical and spelling errors.   

Kelly Stanton: 

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining the show today. I'm Kelly from Qualio and I'm your host here at from lab lunch. If you haven't already please subscribe and give us a review on apple or Spotify we'd appreciate that. And if you want to be on the show, please see the application linked in the show notes. We've had a lot of people reach out and we absolutely love connecting with you. Today's guest is Dr. Bryan Bhagwandin He is the co-founder and CEO at Recalibrate Solutions. He spent more than 20 years in medical product development and has been awarded two degrees in physics and a PhD in biomedical engineering. Recalibrate solutions is empowering physicians to eliminate toxic stress from the lives of children by monitoring stress system development with a five minute disposable saliva cortisol test. In America, alone. 16% of infants and children are at risk for stress related illnesses. Their stress lies under their skin. How do we find those kids? That's what Recalibrate solving for. Really interesting and impactful technology here. I'm sure you'd love to hear about. So let's have a chat with Dr. Bryan. Tell us some more about the story behind recalibrate. What led you to want to focus on portable stress biology monitoring in children?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Question Kelly great to be here. Uh, What led me to do this? So I am in Denver and Denver has a very unique program which used to be called 10, 10, 10 is now called X Genesis. And it's a venture generator. It is was started by a serial entrepreneur who wanted to see. The entrepreneurial spirit really focused on some of the most wicked problems that affect our society today. I was invited to participate as a potential CEO. They bring together, here's why it was called 10, 10, 10. It was 10 CEOs, 10 wicked problems. And 10 days. And they bring together a volunteer community for 10 days and they present 10 problems around a particular theme. And the theme was health when I went through it. And that's the first time that I ever heard the words toxic and distress put together. I thought I knew what it meant, but really it is unique to children. I thought I was going through it myself as an adult, but I, I learned otherwise and I I kept thinking about some of the problems that were presented in the healthcare system and peoples and in health and some of the things that are going on in our society that include things like learning disabilities and lack of achievement and And depression amongst kids and child suicide and housing insecurity. And it goes on and on. And then we can get into the more serious medical conditions, like heart disease and stroke and diabetes. And and they all really pointed to early childhood adversity and toxic stress and toxic stress for your listeners benefit is the overstimulation of a child stress response system in the absence of a buffer and a buffer for children oftentimes is a nurturing relationship. With an adult. And um, and I think many people don't see childhood as a difficult or stressful time. But it turns out that before the pandemic, it was estimated that as you said in your intro about 16% of kids were in that category. The estimates now are probably one in three. And what we're talking about is a dysregulation of the stress response system that everybody is familiar with. If I'm out in the woods, I'm taking a hike and a mountain lion comes across the trail. The hair on the back of my neck stands up and I freeze and my blood circulation changes and my pupils dilate and I am on high alert and I am ready to, as we say, fight or flee and at sometimes free, right. And that all of that those biological changes are because of the stress response system and hormones that get released into the bloodstream. And, and when the threat disappears, when the mountain lion goes away in about 20 minutes, my biology returns to normal. The problem is what happens when the mountain lion is at school. Or what happens if the mountain lion is at the childcare center or the mountain lion is in my home or on the bus as I'm going to school. And every day the child has to face that at that point, you start to disregulate and and it starts to have serious consequences on the development of the child, both their brain and in their body. And so that's toxic stress. It came about because of my participation in this program called 10, 10, 10. And and we decided that right now, nobody is making identification of those kids who are suffering. And since it's changing biology and physiology it's not difficult to determine when a child is is starting to dysregulate.

Kelly Stanton: 

And that's really, that's really interesting. That answered the next question I had to you to, to explain the stress systems and children. And it's, it's interesting as well to me that you would bring it up in the context of the pandemic, because I do, also as a parent dealing with uh, trying to support my children through it. But I, I do, I, I, I think there's definitely a perception out there. You know, Maybe we can just, love them through this or put them in therapy or put them have more discipline or whatever. And we don't consider the biologic response that's happening there. And how do we, how do we manage that? So that's a that's a really interesting way to come at it, for sure. Investing in early childhood development could seem kind of risky though. Kind of like selling futures. How do you educate people about the return or the impact on investing in early childhood development programs?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Wow. What a great question and, and what a hard one to answer. Um, And, and it has been it has been a real challenge. However, let me just let's pretend that people make decisions based on knowledge, but I, I'm not sure that that's that that's an accurate description of the way people's decision-making works. But if that were the case let me suggest to you that that seven of the 10 leading causes of death in America are Our significant, the risk for those causes of death are significantly increased by a dysregulated stress system. And when I say a significant increase in risk, we're talking about One and a half times more likely for a, for a child who, as they become an adult who was stressed and dysregulated as a child, they're one and half times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. They're two times more likely to have a terminal cancer. There are two and a half times more likely to have heart disease. They're two and a half times more likely to have a stroke, four times more likely to have pulmonary disease and four and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression. The studies that have been done looking at those costs suggest that $750 billion annually are spent on healthcare costs that in fact were a result of a dysregulated stress system and in childhood. And so there is an intellectual component, the financial component where you can say, we need to do something, but I think I read somewhere that 98% of our incarcerated population has a dysregulated stress system. When you start thinking about loss of productivity, learning disorders, there is a um, and the field of childhood develop. The, the term executive function is the ability to synergize your memory, your your planning skills. And your, your analysis of cost benefit. And there's a really, there's some great videos out there. There's what I call the marshmallow study, where you, you try and evaluate whether how far a child is in their executive function. You put two marshmallows in front of them and you tell them you can have one negative. Or I've got to go out into the other room. And if you wait until I come back, I'll give you two and they failed these kids and you can see that they have to remember that there is a reward at the end. They have to plan how they're going to spend their time to get there. And they have to do the analysis that they want two marshmallows instead of one. And and if you think about how frequently in life you use those skills and you synergize those skills together. And then when you consider that a dysregulated stress system disrupts the development of executive function in childhood, you, what you would expect to see is a. Kids who have a difficult time keeping their attention. We call that ADHD and, and add you, what you are going to start to see is, is a learning disorders. And you're also gonna start to see uh, mental health issues come up in kids, anxiety, depression and, ultimately in the worst cases, suicide. And so those are, those are some of the, sequella some of the repercussions of, of not addressing these issues and they, they matter to all of us. It's not just the parent, it's not just the employer and it's really, it's really all of us. And it's, it's the future of, of of our communities. Yeah, definitely.

Kelly Stanton: 

The where's the product today and its development cycles. Then how close are you to getting these, these things into the hands of the caregivers?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

We are in the middle of a of a funding round. And and the goal of, of, of that, that capital that we're raising is to build fully functional prototypes that we can utilize to collect the data we need for for FDA submission. We're about probably 18 to 24 months away, post funding from making that submission. And and so that means we're probably two to two and a half years away from introducing this into the, into the marketplace. We have we've really worked out the chemistry and we've demonstrated that we can do this. The research is there to, to support what we're looking at, the biomarkers that we're looking at the ability to, to collect this data from, from saliva samples. And and the ability to predict what's going on with the child is is all in the scientific literature. So we're pretty excited about.

Kelly Stanton: 

Nice. That is exciting. So not, not that far away then in the big scheme of things, hopefully. And and FDA submissions being what they are.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Yeah, that's, that's, that's kinda been my world and this is a pretty low risk product. And we've, we, we think that it'll take a couple of iterations with the FDA. I've never seen anything go through the first time you submit. But we anticipate that that with about six months of time we'll be able to see and clearance from them.

Kelly Stanton: 

Good deal. That's exciting. You have never seen anything go through the first time. Fortunately or unfortunately uh, goodness. How do you see this technology evolving in the next five to 10 years? You know, talk about childhood and as you were talking, I was thinking about, is there some opportunity for, rehabilitation in adults, for example, or, or once those pathways are set and the dysregulation is in place, you're stuck.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

That's a, that's a great question, Kelly. I, I used to say tongue-in-cheek to two other adults that I would speak with, We're already broken. But it's really not true. Before we understood the role that, that childhood adversity and toxic stress played in, in people's lives, we used to, we recognized it and, and in my generation, we used to say, you spend your adult life getting over what your, what your parents did to you. But it's, it's a, it's a similar sort of thing. We, we have also come to understand that. And even the nervous system is very plastic and and, and, and pliable. It does take some work, but we can we can be changed and modified and healed. If we make the effort you know, we are not we're not in the business of, of Introducing therapy for lack of a better way to put it. We're not treating people, we're identifying those kids. Those treatments are out there. There are a whole host of things that can be done from a caretaker centric activities that go on to physical activities like oh, like yoga and exercise and and other regulating activities like music and and art that can be used to, to really regulate a person before they really get into therapy. And for severe cases, we go all the way to the other end of the spectrum, which includes one-on-one counseling on an ongoing basis and pharmaceuticals if necessary. But the easier the, the earlier we can, we can detect the dysregulation, the easier it is to, to jump in there and, and and change it uh, which is why we're focused on kids ages really six months to five years. But it's, it's really a tool that can be used all the way up into adult. You asked about w what's the future look like? And I think, I think the general population is, is becoming more and more aware of, of the detrimental effects of stress regardless of your age. And and sometimes from a, from a biology standpoint, physiology standpoint stress is defined a little differently and there's good stress and there's tolerable stress and there's bad stress or toxic stress. And um, waking up in the morning is a stressful event for the body. From a physiology standpoint, you've been at rest and quiescent and you open your eyes and they get flooded with photons and you stand up and, your muscles have to contract and it goes on and on, but that's not a bad thing. And uh, stress can make you grow if it's done in a, in a constructive way. And but, but every person is different and the way they handle different stressors is different. And the resilience tools that they have are different. And I can imagine a day when I might want to run down to the CVS or Walgreens, and I want to pick up a disposable stress senor assertive to determine what my activities should be. I've got a presentation at work or I've got a final in my, at school. Should I. Should I take a run, should I go to the gym and, and really try and do some exercise and address my stress levels before I start studying or before I start preparing if I run down to the drugstore and I, and I put a little saliva on the strip, I might be able to tell. What, what is the best course of action for me? And what's the most efficient way to get myself into peak performance for whatever is needed with whatever I'm facing.

Kelly Stanton: 

Definitely well, and, and I, I love the idea of being able to monitor it from that biologic perspective, because I think sometimes things feel so much bigger than they are. And so as we rock along through life, it's okay, I'm really stressed out about this work thing. Like you were suggesting. And it feels like the world is ending. Is that just, my brain is spinning out of control or is there really something going on here? And then I can use that as a tool to figure out how to manage it. I that's, that's an amazing idea right there. I love that concept because yeah, otherwise. It just feels big, right?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

There's a couple of things that come to mind as you, as you said, that Kelly one is just the idea that it feels big, but maybe it's not that big and, and a big part. That's a, that's a big part of, of when we start to disregulate and our stress system is not working properly. And I think everybody has experienced the idea that I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm feeling totally stressed out and somebody comes along and says, it's all going to be okay. And it does nothing to help. Right. And you cannot even hear it. You can't process it. Sometimes people want to help as a parent, for instance you've got a child who's stressed out and you're trying to help them manage their way to get to whatever it is they need to accomplish. And they can't even hear it. It turns out that you really have to regulate before you rationalize. And so just a practical piece of information for parents. I, I am a parent of a teenage girl and sometimes she gets totally stressed out. It turns out her regulation mechanism is music. And to the surprise of her mother at times I have, when she is struggling with a homework assignment or she's trying to get something done and she feels very pressured and she can't concentrate. I asked her if she's listening to music and sometimes I've sent her to her room to go listen to some of her favorite music for 10 minutes before we talk about how she's going to tackle her homework assignment. And it has proven to be an amazing sort of switch for her to get myself regulated first and then I can hear rational advice. So that that's one thing about, being overwhelmed. I think the other thing that I, that, that I thought about as you were talking is, is as a parent, my children will communicate to me that they feel stressed and I never really know what to do with that. You know, Sometimes I think that's just part of being a teenager and you just have to live through it. I hated it. And I never want to read it, you know, relive those years myself. And then the other, the other part of me says, do I need. W what, what should I do? I mean, is this right? And is this a big problem? And sometimes I fear that as a parent, if, if it, if, if whatever you're going through would not have stressed me out, I don't want to give it a two. But every person is different. And just because it wouldn't have stressed me out, it doesn't mean that it might be having unhealthy effects on you. And I think about this tool and I think why wouldn't it be great to, to empower parents, to see whether or not there was what what's going on silently inside my child?

Kelly Stanton: 

I know I, so I have a nine-year-old daughter who's going on 16. So I was taking notes. As you were speaking there, worse we're in the throws of that with her right now. Like it's, she's definitely hit that age. holy cow, like everything, everything is huge right to her. And yeah. And, and, if you grew up in a military family, that it was, suck it up, buttercup, this is life, you're going to have to figure out how to just push through this. And yeah, I feel I have a lot of days where I feel completely. Ill equipped to support my kid. Who's living through a pandemic So everything feels huge to her. So, yeah. Okay. So two years, right? I'm going to. I'll be, I'll be I'll be on your front door by, in that first box. You guys sell you let me know. Okay. Because

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

about every, every third potential investor I talked to, they asked me, do you have any samples? I, you know, I had my own kids, so I feel it. I feel it believe me.

Kelly Stanton: 

Oh, that's, that's, that's incredible though. And it's certainly. That's that's such a, I don't want to say those kinds of things or like an unmet need, but, because we have so many tools at our disposal, with therapy and pharmaceuticals and all those kinds of things, but as a parent, too, do I really want to put my kid on anxiety medicine? I don't know that I want to start. And of course myself being a trained biologist, I don't want to mess with any of the chemistry yet. She's too young. So I love this concept of being able to have a data point that's independent of whatever it is she's feeling to help to help figure out what's what's the right approach. That's that's really incredible. Oh my gosh. I am so going to be following you guys from here on out

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

it's, it's been it's you know, the, one of the biggest challenges that we have had is the, the temporal separation between cause and effect. We're, we're starting to understand it, but it's really hard to get people to open their wallets. When I tell you that something that happened when you were three and until you were five during that, whatever is going to show itself 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 30 years from now. And, and I certainly can't do the longitudinal studies, we, that we can't do that. The, but, but, but there is enough evidence out there demonstrating on the earliest side. And so the biggest focus for us has been the mental health side, because those are the first things that start to show themselves. But, but one of the tragedies is that. I call this the silent, stress is the silent killer because it's really, there are things going on inside that you can't see. And if we're waiting until we start to see behavioral unacceptable behavioral repercussions from from a child W it's going to cost a lot more to reregulate to recalibrate those kids stress response system and, and as I like to say, when, when kids go to school and they are stressed and their, their fight or flight System is stimulated fighting is, is is not acceptable in a school environment. And we call, we call flight truancy. And that's also not acceptable. So you basically have a multiple choice question where none of the answers are correct or, or going to be okay. So our goal is to identify those kids and get them developing in a healthy and normal way before they ever get to school. And just a quick story. What got me into this is I'm one of the leading experts. Really the internationally in this field is my co-founder. She's the head of the psych department at the University of Denver. And she's also trained as a, as a biologist and looks at physiology. As she looks at stress adversity. She showed me a chart or a graph of a recently returned combat veteran who had been diagnosed with PTSD and they looked at this individual's cortisol readings across the day and she showed me Another graph of of an 18 month old who was experiencing toxic stress and looked at the cortisol values across the day. And without the titles on the graphs, you would not be able to see, to determine which was the 18 month old and which was the the combat veteran. Wow. And so I used to, I used to say, this is PTSD in kids and nobody believed me. They thought that I was, oh, you're, you're trying, you're trying to build a product for those four kids out there who are, you know, um, but so I've stopped using that analogy, but I can't, I still can't get the images out of my head of looking at those graphs and recognizing that from a physiological standpoint they're identical. And unfortunately it's worse for the kids because the the combat veteran is fully developed. The child is yet to be developed, is still developing. And, and what we're seeing in those graphs are are disrupting healthy development.

Kelly Stanton: 

And I think I remember reading something about, were certain types of behaviors and responses are hardwired in us, but at the time, by the time was like five, I think. And yeah, if you can intervene sooner you can do a lot to set those kids up for some better success.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Just imagine if we, if, if, if we want to introduce this as standard of care for within the pediatric office, you go into the pediatrician's office and they look at your, they listened to your heart. For cardiovascular health and, and listen to your lungs for respiratory health. And that we're, we're looking at all these systems and wanting to make sure that they're developing normally the auditory and visual systems. But we're not looking at the stress response system because we don't have the tools for it yet. And if, if we could bring this in and it could be just a normal part of our assessment of healthy child development, imagine. What life would be like if, if we could reduce substantially reduce the number of kids that are that are suffering from learning disabilities. And we should, could, could substantially increase the graduation rates because because we've got kids now who are, who are more healthy and, and more productive in their ability to use their executive function. And we start reducing the rates of diabetes and cancer and heart disease substantially. It is the future could be, can be so much better and so much more exciting for those kids. And right now they're not feeling it. And the pandemic just, just puts a, really puts a, a sharp, fine point on that.

Kelly Stanton: 

Sure does well, and I think too, the skeptics, the skeptics, the skeptical parents who are like, oh, you're just, you're, you're being too, you're telling me I need to be nicer to my kid or whatever. And they're, they're skeptical. And instead of having this sort of philosophic argument about the way a child is being raised, you can show them a piece of data and go, no, look, this is biology. This is not judgment. Some, but something needs to change. If you want your kid to have a successful life and avoid diabetes and learning, that's it. Just run down the laundry list. So yeah, can certainly, that'd be a powerful tool in the hand of the doctor for sure.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

And I think, I. I believe the best in parents. I think they're doing the best they can and they, and they're, you know, they want the best for their kids. And sometimes they're doing things they don't even realize. There's a story that I a true story of a young ten-year-old girl who went to the doctor because she was suffering from asthma. Her physician sat down for the third or fourth time with her mom to try and get the medication doses correctly. And. And the physician said, can you think of anything, anything at all that we haven't talked about that might be stimulating, these asthma attacks and her mom thought for a while. And she said I have noticed. That when her dad gets angry and punches a hole in the wall, it really exacerbates her asthma. And it turns out that this child was never in, in danger of physical physical abuse, her father had an anger management problem, but he didn't want to take it out on the kids. And so he was punching holes in the wall to get to get it out of himself, but it totally freaked out his daughter and she, and she did not have that. She had a respiratory response to stress that she was because she was just watching her dad who also was stressed. And he was trying to be, he was trying to protect her in a, in, in finding a healthy outlet. Maybe it wasn't so healthy, but finding an outlet for his own anger. And the I, I read this, I read this article from from the, the attending a pediatrician. And she said I was, I was delighted that I was able to make the correct diagnosis for Kendra this, this girl, what I was what scared me was how many other kids had I misdiagnosed with with an issue that really wasn't w it was a symptom of their, of dysregulated stress response. pretty excited about what we're doing.

Kelly Stanton: 

Yeah. Yeah. I can, I can see that. Definitely. I'm going to jump down, on a more personal note, if you could go back and tell yourself something at the start of your career, what would that be?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

It would be. Not to, to we live in a culture where independence is an extremely high value and and. And so I think there's a lot of efforts to be self-sufficient in what we do and who we are. And and I would tell myself not to buy that lie and and, and eat. And I would tell myself to, to value. The people, networks and relationships that are around me all the way through as I was growing in my adult life because I did not take those as seriously as I wish I would have. And as I think about this this venture and really Being successful with this venture. It is not something that I'm doing independently. It is something that is really going to take the whole community getting behind this and understanding this and the networks that are there. It's, it's gonna take all of that and more. And and if I would have been more attentive I may have been able to do this a little bit more efficiently and expedient. So that's the advice I'd give

Kelly Stanton: 

myself. Yeah. That's good advice. All right. Where can people go to learn more follow along and connect with you?

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Um, Connection with me is probably through my LinkedIn profile. I I'm pretty regularly looking at LinkedIn. Certainly our web site at recalibrate solutions. That's plural solutions.com. We'll give we try to keep. People abreast of the science the public media because this has become a, a big issue and covered in, at the wall street journal and the New York times and Forbes and NPR and so we, you know, Oprah has done a 60 minutes special on this as well. So there's a number of of media outlets that we try to keep people abreast of and, and keep them up to date on. And then the science as well. And then some other things that they can learn about are on that site. That's it. That's a great place to go for information too.

Kelly Stanton: 

Good deal. This, as I said, I'll, I will definitely be following along.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

And of course, if anybody is interested in writing checks we are taking them. We are currently in the middle of an equity round you can buy into the company and and support us in that way. And if somebody that, w would be mission-aligned on that front. We would, we would love to have the introduction.

Kelly Stanton: 

Yeah, definitely. What's We're working on some different community outreach sorts of things and getting w we love connecting everybody. We love connecting all the people, it's it it really is about the networks and the connections in this whole life sciences industry in general, and which is. Why we do this, this podcast. So thank you so much for your time. It's been absolutely wonderful to meet you and chat with you today. And yeah, we'll look forward to hopefully hearing from you again in the near future. As soon as you guys get closer to to commercialization.

Bryon Bhagwandin: 

Thank you so much, Kelly. It was great to be here with great conversation. I really enjoyed it.