Two months after obtaining approval of its product from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US-Israeli company Viz.ai has completed a $21 million financing round led by US venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins with participation from Google's GV fund and previous investors, among them Innovation Endeavors, controlled by founding partners Eric Schmidt and Dror Berman, which led Viz.ai's previous round; the AME fund of Yahoo! Founder Jerry Yang; and Danhua Capital, controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Viz.ai uses artificial intelligence to analyze CT scans in order to help doctors diagnose and treat strokes. Viz.ai intends to use the money raise to double its staff within a year, both its development team in Israel and its sales team around the world, and to conduct clinical trials in the US.
Viz.ai was founded by Dr. Chris Mansi, a neurosurgeon with an MBA from Stanford University; Dr. Manoj Ramachandran, an orthopedic surgeon and honorary reader at Barts Health NHS Trust; and Dr. David Golan, an Israeli post-doctoral machine learning student at Stanford University.
Two years ago, Golan suffered a stroke and learned about the difficulty of diagnosing the condition rapidly and accurately. "A stroke is a blood clot caught in the brain that causes the death of brain cells at a rapid rate. Doctors perform brain catheterization in which they mechanically remove the blood clot and open the blocked passage. The problem is that for this to succeed, it has to happen fast. The treatment was approved for use only in 2015 and existing only in catheterization centers in important hospitals. When a patient reaches a hospital in his neighborhood, he undergoes a scan there. If he is a candidate for catheterization, he is transferred to a center. There are delays at both the hospital where the scan is performed, in the transfer to the center, and in the catheterization center. Several hours pass between the patient's arrival at the hospital and the beginning of treatment. Today, six million stroke cases end in death each year and people are left with severe disabilities in millions more cases."
While he was still recovering, Golan combined with Mansi and Ramachandran to found a company that would solve these problems through a diagnostic algorithm designed to assist doctors and make them more efficient. The algorithm that they developed simultaneously compares the scan of the patients being operated on with hundreds of thousands of other scans and identifies recurring patterns.
"With us, all the scans go to the cloud. We have taught the computer to read these scans. Every scan is half a gigabyte or one gigabyte of information that the computer analyzes in a few short minutes. If we see that the patient can be catheterized, we issue an alert of this through an application directly to the catheterizing doctor, from one hospital to another," Golan adds. "In a clinical trial, our system warned about strokes an average of 52 minutes earlier than the regular treatment standard - that's exactly a year of life. Two million brain neurons die in every minute that passes without treatment and every 15 minutes increase the likelihood of permanent disability by 4%."
Five months ago, the company received FDA approval for its basic product, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze CT scans in order to identify strokes. Two months later, the company also received FDA approval for a program designed to help doctors optimally adapt the treatment to the patient, while using artificial intelligence to analyze patients' brain functioning. Sales of the product in the US began immediately after FDA approval was obtained.
Viz.ai is emphasizing the US market because the health system there is private, which enables hospitals to make faster decisions than hospitals in Europe and Israel, where sales must be made to the Ministry of Health. "In the US, they're of course motivated by profit," says Golan. "In Europe, decisions are made from a more holistic perspective that considers the effect on the general population. It's a very interesting market, but it's very different. We're working on entering this market, but it's a long-term process. In addition, stroke is the number one cause of preventable disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the US. According to the US National Stroke Association, a case of stroke occurs in the US every 40 seconds.
Viz.ai is marketing an array of technology products for stroke for the purposes of diagnosis, decision-making, and patient management. The company is operating its system commercially in a number of hospitals in the US and at a number of research sites in Israel and Europe. The main center in Israel is at the Rambam Health Care Campus.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 18, 2018
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