“Prevention is better than cure” is the mantra spurring some of this year’s 30 Under 30 Asia listees in the Healthcare & Science category to start their health-tech ventures.
Stroke is the world’s second-leading cause of death after heart disease, a statistic that inspired Milad Mohammadzadeh and Sadaf Monajemi in 2017 to launch See-Mode Technologies to better predict the risk of strokes.
See-Mode is developing a software suite that analyzes medical imaging, like ultrasound and MRI scans, to identify risk factors that increase the likelihood of strokes, such as low blood flow through an artery. See-Mode’s first product is augmented vascular analysis (AVA), a software that analyses ultrasound images of arteries. With a single click, clinicians using AVA can get a report in less than a minute versus the 20 minutes it takes to create such reports.
Mohammadzadeh and Monajemi met as engineering students in Iran and came to Singapore in 2012 for a research project. After getting married in 2013 and earning their Ph.D.s in Singapore in 2017—Mohammadzadeh in physics and Monajemi in electrical and computer engineering—the couple decided to put their research to use, joining the Singapore office of London-headquartered startup incubator Entrepreneur First.
See-Mode completed early clinical trials in Singapore and set up a second office in Melbourne last year. “Australia has been the home of some of the most influential clinical trials in strokes over the past decade and presented a great opportunity in close proximity to Singapore for us to expand our clinical studies and early customer base,” says Mohammadzadeh, See-Mode’s CEO. Monajemi is See-Mode’s director and chief technology officer.
See-Mode has so far raised $1 million, including from Singapore government-linked investors SGInnovate and Entrepreneur First. Last October, See-Mode received regulatory approval to license AVA in Singapore and expects to obtain the European approval by the second quarter. Mohammadzadeh and Monajemi say 12 hospitals are working closely with See-Mode as research partners and customers across Australia and Singapore, as are imaging clinics around the region.
The pair now aim to expand into new markets in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia. They are also preparing to seek regulatory approval for two more products aimed at detecting vascular problems, which they hope to start selling within three years.
As is the case in See-Mode, data learning and computational models feature prominently in many young entrepreneurs’ work.
In Australia, Aengus Tran’s Harrison.Ai used artificial intelligence to design new algorithms and treatment for healthcare professionals. The startup partnered with Australian reproductive service provider Virtus Health to build an algorithm for in vitro fertilization (IVF). The startup claims that its models can more accurately predict which embryo has a higher likelihood of resulting in pregnancy by analyzing time lapses in incubation.
In December 2019, Harrison.Ai raised about $20 million from investors led by Australian VC firm Blackbird Ventures and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's private investment vehicle Horizons Ventures.
In Japan, Yoshinori Abe founded AI Monshin Ubie—a cloud-based AI software that can help doctors manage and process patient documents, thereby reducing their workload.
Another Japanese 30 Under 30 honoree, Osamu Iizuka, is tackling the shortage of pathologists—doctors who examine tissue and fluid samples for disease or injury, such as cancer—by using AI.
Iizuka set up his company, Medmain in 2018, which employs AI to make faster and more accurate diagnoses of samples from images. The company secured over $5 million in funding and was selected by the Japanese government-backed J-Startup initiative in June from over 10,000 Japanese startups. Currently, the company, which is based in the southern city of Fukuoka, is preparing the kick off its pathological analysis system platform, PidPort.
Other list members are focusing on inventing new medical devices.
Liu Xinyue, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is focusing on developing 3D printing techniques and living materials for diagnosis and therapy.
Liu co-authored a research paper on 3D printing genetically engineered bacteria, which is fine-tuned to respond to cancer-inducing cells by changing colors. She is the lead author of a paper about an ingestible sensor that can swell to the size of a ping-pong ball once swallowed and stay in the stomach to monitor vital signs and track health conditions.
Meanwhile in Australia, Elise Sutherland’s medtech startup Stelect aims to improve the stent (a tube inserted in narrowed arteries to keep them open) selection process for patients suffering from coronary heart blockage. This involves using the company’s patented ultrasound imaging balloon catheter to create a 3D model of the artery, so physicians can get a better idea of the right dimensions required for the stent.
VPIX, a Seoul-based startup founded by Kyungmin Hwang, develops handheld microscopes that can be used during cancer surgery to visualize cells in real-time. This helps surgeons to define a resection margin between the cancer cells and normal cells, allowing the surgery to be completed faster.
“This is only the beginning,” Hwang says. “This year, we plan to complete the technology development and validate the clinical validity with many hospitals.”
Additional reporting by Tan Hwee Hwee.
Correction: April 2, 2020
An earlier version of this article misstated See-Mode’s augmented vascular analysis (AVA) product. The article also misstated that 12 hospitals in Australia and Singapore are already using AVA. In fact, See-Mode is working closely with them as research partners and customers.
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