Thornhill teen uses machine learning AI to treat Tourette syndrome


Fifteen-year-old Jerry Di from Thornhill, Ontario has been working together with computer science students at UW and the University of Toronto to help millions of people that suffer from Tourette syndrome.

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes tics, resulting in muscle spasms. 

“This condition causes extreme social stigma and discomfort, especially in youth,” Di said.

Di and his team have spent the last year on a biotechnology start-up for the treatment of Tourette syndrome by developing an AI-based platform called Unitic.

“We are building a virtual therapy platform that uses machine learning to diagnose patients and treats them through specialized therapy. We hope to use it to drastically improve the treatment field for Tourette syndrome, ” Di explained.

The team has recently been supported by the Alberta OCD Foundation and Tourette Network, but believe they still have a long way to go in terms of assisting those that suffer from the disease.

“We’re leaving millions of people without support or treatment, especially in commonly overlooked areas,” Di said “We hope to use it to drastically improve the treatment field for Tourette syndrome.”

The funding for research towards treatment for Tourette syndrome has been steadily declining over recent years, which has contributed to lowering the quality of treatment. 

“We simply hope to make an innovative change in the way Tourette syndrome is treated with our platform. Our goal is to be the competition that will push the Tourette syndrome treatment industry to improve,” Emily Su said, another lead in Di’s team.

Di was inspired by his own experience with Tourette syndrome to help others like him obtain effective and affordable treatment.

“All the possible methods are either outrageously expensive, impossible to commute to or just downright ineffective,” Di said, “That’s why I wanted to create a platform that would solve this issue, something that anyone could use at any time to better themselves.” 

Looking forward, the team is hoping to engage with industry leaders and professionals to bring Unitic into the market. 

“We want to be able to provide the best of the Unitic platform, and the best experience to help patients,” Di said.