A potentially groundbreaking online service for patients with brain injuries is gaining momentum, and South Side High School alum Matt Giovanniello is the young chief executive officer behind it all.
Giovanniello, 22, who graduated Boston College with a business degree in May, received a patent for a computer program he created to help those with neurological deficits on their road to recovery. Now, his newly developed beta website will be tested in the coming months.
His program, called Frenalytics, serves as a medical portal, therapy tool and analytics tracker specifically designed for patients suffering from various types of brain trauma. Whether someone is recovering from a stroke or a brain-impairing accident, suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, or even experiencing post-traumatic stress, Giovanniello said Frenalytics could help.
“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor,” Giovanniello said. “I was really serious about helping others, and then I discovered that my real passion lies in computers. I found myself in the health care technology space, not being a doctor, but being able to create software that helps people in a very similar way.”
The idea came for Giovanniello in seventh grade after his grandmother suffered a stroke, leaving her paralyzed and unable to speak. Seeing the difficulties she faced to relearn things, he made a PowerPoint quiz to help her memory.
One part of the quiz presented a family photo and asked her, one by one, “Who is this person?” Gradually, she was able to identify each family member by name, even her grandson. She began recognizing not just her family, but other parts of her life, as well. Photos of her kitchen excited her, for example, because food and cooking is integral in the Giovanniello family.
“Her improvement was noticeable as she was able to communicate better with people,” said Giovanniello’s father, Tony. “We saw a gradual return of parts of her personality, and I would say her quality of life definitely had improved overall.”
At the time, Giovanniello only intended the program to be for his grandmother. But a friend of his family, Chris Patterson, who is now his business partner, saw its potential.
“When Matt first showed me the initial concept for his idea, I was blown away,” said Patterson, 31, of Patchogue. “After hearing Matt and his family talk about how his grandmother reacted to that much better over the typical therapy options provided to her, I knew this was something that he needed to pursue.”
While she did improve, Giovanniello’s grandmother never fully recovered. She died in 2014 as Giovanniello was headed to Boston College. “In a way, the selfless act of going through what she did opened the door of opportunity for so many other patients,” he said. “Now there will be something out there for those patients to improve like she did.”
Today, the program stores patients’ medical records and online therapy sessions. Medical professionals and loved ones can add information and create quizzes aimed to help patients regain their memory and acclimate back into daily life.
For example, a question may ask, “Which of these is your house?” and give the patient three photos to choose from. If the answer is correct, the program gives the patient a clear affirmation and continues to the next question — if not, they are asked to try again. The analytics from these quizzes help caretakers track the patient’s progress.
“In terms of neurological rehabilitation, we found there wasn’t anything out there [like this],” Giovanniello said. “This all started out of a need.”
While attending South Side in 2014, Giovanniello entered the Intel Science Talent Search Competition with his work and reached the semi-finals. He began the patent process while in high school with the help of his parents, Denise and Tony, who both work in the medical field and contribute their expertise to the company.
After a six-year effort, Giovanniello received a congratulatory email from his patent attorney one morning during his sophomore year at Boston College. “[Getting the patent] was no small feat,” he said. “That’s been vital to our efforts today.”
Since then, Giovanniello and Patterson have hit the ground running. Strategizing during conference calls twice a week and hiring Christian Rikong, a website developer, the past two years have been a time of significant growth for Frenalytics.
Shortly after hiring Rikong in May, Giovanniello had a functioning beta site. He flew to California over the summer to pitch the program to Avenidas, an adult daycare center in Palo Alto, and the results were positive.
“Perhaps not all [patients] would be suited for Frenalytics, but [Avenidas does] believe that a good portion of their participants would,” Giovanniello said.
By the end of the year, about 50 to 100 patients at the senior facility will be trying out Frenalytics, he added, and he plans to work with hospitals in the Northeast to test the beta site and confirm that the program helps people the way they expect it to.
“I didn’t intend to bring this to the point that I did now, but because it was so impactful for the one patient that it involved, someone so close to me, I realized something had to be done about this,” Giovanniello said. “Realizing that vision and passion and being able to act on it fuels me every day.”