The British startup Cerina supported with a testing opportunity with University of Ulster students

Cerina is a British start-up who won a prize at the hackathon organised in June 2022 in Scotland as part of the IT4Anxiety project. It is a medical-grade digital therapist providing disorder-specific psychological support. The current application focuses on treating Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It consists of six weeks long therapy sessions with the intention of helping the user to understand their condition, the treatment approach, and how it is applicable to them. They are working on personalising the user experience further through an avatar (i.e. virtual therapist). Thus, the long-term vision is to develop a digital therapist that can be scaled up to treat other mental health problems, can be used in multiple languages, and is culturally appropriate to each end-user.

 Its managers, Ozlem and Charlotte, travelled to Belfast in May to discuss a study in collaboration with the Ulster University. For our latest newsletter, they agreed to tell us all about their two-day visit.

What ‘craic’ Ozlem and I had in Belfast, from the people to the food to the exhilarating discussions. It all began with Siobhan being a wonderful host and picking us up from the airport. From then we had a delightful evening with Prof Gerry Leavey (Principal Investigator on Cerina testing), Siobhan and Leigh (RA at Ulster University) and got straight into talking about our study design. These face-to-face meetings are a catalyst to solving problems and aligning on what is necessary. It wasn’t just academic talk, but we shared stories and interests and laughed a lot.

The next day we met plenty of students, handing out flyers and also touched base with Ulster University Student Union officers, we even made our first TikTok with them.

We got to meet Prof Joan Condell head of IT4Anxiety research group at Ulster University, and also the chief executive of Health Innovation Research Alliance of Northern Ireland, Joann Rhodes over lunch. Joann brings an incredible business mind to the table and gave us some great tips. We showed her the product and she loved it. Her comments on the importance of collecting metrics about our business proposition were also very valuable.

Next up, it was off to meet with the university Student Wellbeing team who are crucial to our risk management plan in our study. These meetings are key as our type of innovation is what we intend to use in helping improve student wellbeing services and offering solutions to alleviate waiting times.

You will find the best middle eastern food in Northern Ireland. Nora’s Palace run by Nora from Egypt; she brings you to another world with her flavours. James (RA at Ulster) joined us as well and took us to the famous pub, The Crown… we all sat in 1800s cosy snugs and lost ourselves in deep conversations, the lights had started to go out…. I suppose we got a little too cosy!

I am writing this on the plane back to London, I thoroughly enjoyed my time, and forgot how much I missed academic conversations. These visits are vital for our projects, and I want to thank IT4Anxiety for making it possible!

Charlotte Monnickendam from Cerina


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