Viz, a San Francisco-based company looking to apply artificial intelligence to medical imaging, has raised $7.5 million in first-round funding. The round includes two tranches -- a $4.7 million round that just closed and a $2.5 million round from last fall. The other $300,000 was reserved for employees to contribute. The funding round was led by DHVC and Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. AME Cloud Ventures and Susa Ventures also contributed.
"AI in the form of deep learning is actually relatively simple when you think of it," CEO Dr. Chris Mansi told MobiHealthNews. "It’s just training an algorithm to identify patterns. And doctors, when we look at medical images, we are looking for patterns that we’ve learned about and seen before and categorizing those patterns into diagnoses. So what we do at Viz is we use deep learning to help doctors make that diagnosis faster and get the right patient to the right doctor at the right time."
Viz is initially focusing on stroke, but intends to expand its capability to a number of health conditions where diagnostic imagery is used and time is of the essence.
"When an artery to the brain is blocked, brain cells die at a rate of 2 million every single minute," Mansi, who is trained as a neurosurgeon, explained. "With an artery to the heart [by comparison] it’s closer to 70,000 cells every minute. Essentially the brain is much more sensitive to schemia, or lack of oxygen, than any other part of the body. And this is why stroke is the number one cause of preventable disability in the Western world."
The company has trained a learning neural network on a large database of medical imagery from the last 10 years to create a tool that can quickly connect patients to the right specialist and give that specialist additional tools to make a diagnosis. The tool will be integrated into a hospital's existing DICOM infrastructure.
"We don’t see ourselves — and it’s not a marketing thing, it’s just that I know the truth about how complicated healthcare is — we do not see ourselves as replacing doctors," Mansi said. "We’re very much an aid and an assistant to help them do the fantastic work that they already do in a more efficient, faster way."
Viz has completed some pilots in the US and the UK and is awaiting FDA clearance. They expect to have it by late 2017 or early 2018. Mansi said that once the stroke tool is cleared, the company has a pipeline of several other products in the wings. The funding will be used to commercialize the stroke product once it's cleared and to continue to develop the future products.