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5 Min Read

International Women’s Day 2024: Spotlight on Dr Louise Marshall, Director of Mental Health Innovation

8 Mar 2024

For International Women’s Day 2024, we are highlighting ieso’s women in STEM. For our latest Team Spotlight, we spoke to Director of Mental Health Innovation, Dr Louise Marshall.

Louise holds a PhD in Neuroscience from University College London and a BA in Physiological Sciences from the University of Oxford.

We talked to Louise about her role at ieso, the development of our Responsible Innovation programme, and why understanding and meeting users’ needs is so important for ieso and the wider digital mental health space.

Hi Louise. Can you tell us about your background, your role at ieso and the current projects you’re working on?

I originally trained in physiology before specialising in cognitive neuroscience research. This has fuelled a fascination for how the brain, and its interactions with the rest of the body, shape how we think, feel and behave – and a passion for bringing experts from different disciplines together to catalyse new scientific discovery and healthcare impact.

I spent five years at Wellcome – a global charitable foundation that funds health research – where I managed a £500m portfolio of brain and behavioural science, and supported the creation of a mental health strategy to advance understanding and treatment of anxiety and depression through new interdisciplinary collaborations.

At ieso, I develop strategic programmes and partnerships to accelerate research into what drives response to psychological therapy in different people, and use our findings to raise standards for safe, effective and scalable mental healthcare.

A major focus of my work has been building our Responsible Innovation programme, to ensure our patients’ safety and wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do. I have also been working closely with academic (King’s College London, UCL, University of Sheffield), clinical (NHS), and lived experience experts to validate insights we’ve learned from treating tens of thousands of patients and inform precision therapies that could boost recovery rates for millions of people.

The development of ieso’s Responsible Innovation programme has been a large body of work. Could you give us an overview of its different facets?

Our Responsible Innovation programme ensures our patients’ safety, privacy and wellbeing are at the centre of the products we develop, the research we conduct, and the services we deliver. It encompasses five workstreams:

  1. User involvement – We work with users - both people with lived experience of mental health conditions and clinicians - to shape our products, services and research in ways that increase their positive impact for the people they serve. Our Lived Experience Partners work alongside us as collaborators to inform strategy and implementation, and our Lived Experience Panels bring a range of perspectives that we use to better understand our patients’ needs, resolve their concerns, and earn their trust.
  2. Research governance and ethics – Grounded in international Good Clinical Practice guidelines, our research governance framework ensures our R&D is conducted under the highest scientific and ethical standards. We evaluate, manage and communicate the benefits and risks of our research to our volunteers to set the appropriate balance between safety, evidence and innovation.
  3. Equity, diversity and inclusion – We are committed to developing more inclusive products and services that are broadly accessible and effective, including for people who have been systemically excluded from mental health treatment. We monitor the demographics of our patients and research volunteers to (i) understand how to meet the needs of those accessing our products and services, (ii) inform ways of diversifying the people we research, and (iii) mitigate embedding biases in our care and technologies.
  4. Data privacy – Mental health is deeply personal. We recognise that being trustworthy requires us to go above and beyond legal and regulatory requirements by involving patients and the wider public in shaping how we use patient data for treatment and research, such that we address their needs, expectations and concerns. This starts with providing clear information about how and why we collect, use, retain, share and protect patient data, so that our patients understand the benefits and the risks, and can make informed choices about how their data is used.
  5. Responsible AI - We are committed to the fair, ethical and transparent use of AI technologies that prioritises the safety and wellbeing of our patients, clinicians, and wider society. We apply the thinking and practices captured under workstreams 1-4 to inform how we develop, evidence and deploy advanced technologies safely and responsibly to improve the therapy we deliver.

And finally, why is Responsible Innovation so important, not just to ieso but to the digital mental health space as a whole? Is it purely ethical or does it go beyond that?

To realise our ambition of bringing safe and effective therapy to the millions of people around the world in need of mental health support, we must deliver solutions that people can trust. First and foremost, because we want to use patient data and technology for good, and have a positive impact on people’s lives. And second, because trusting relationships with our patients, customers and regulators mean we can work collaboratively to enable innovation.

When some people hear the word “responsible” precede innovation, they hear brakes – processes and bureaucracy that will slow us down and limit our progress. I hear the opposite.

We are in the midst of a global mental health crisis. We cannot respond with an appropriate sense of urgency without accepting a certain level of risk that positions us at the vanguard of transforming mental healthcare. Responsible Innovation provides the thinking and practices to ensure we carefully manage these risks, and at all times protect patients’ safety and wellbeing. Not only is this the ethical way to operate, in a sector in which there are many bad actors behaving in ways that do not prioritise their users’ interests, it is the only sustainable route to earning trust and ultimately ensuring widespread adoption of the digital products we are investing so heavily in developing.

For International Women’s Day, we spoke to Dr Louise Marshall for our latest Team Spotlight.