See-Mode Technologies, a Singapore and Australia based MedTech start-up, has announced that it has raised US$ 7M in its Series A round.
About the funding round
The Series A round of funding was led by MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia. Existing investors including Australian venture firm Blackbird Ventures, Singapore-based early stage investor Cocoon Capital, London-headquartered talent investor Entrepreneur First, Singapore-based deep tech investor SGInnovate, and other angel investors also participated in the round.
The funds raised will back the company’s commercial expansion plans to bring its products to Europe and the US markets in the upcoming year. In addition, See-Mode is strengthening its existing operations and aiming to at least double its team size by hiring talent across various product roles. It is expanding its R&D and engineering capabilities, and building up its core sales and business development team.
Furthermore, See-Mode’s team is also broadening its partnerships to more research institutions around the world to build a strong base of scientific evidence for its R&D efforts. Currently, See-Mode has research partnerships with healthcare institutions such as National University Hospital and Changi General Hospital in Singapore, and Austin Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia. The partnerships further validate the start-up’s algorithms and models to assist clinicians in image interpretation and stroke prediction. In addition, these research collaborations will also assist the company in building sufficient clinical evidence for regulatory approval of its upcoming products.
Previously, See-Mode raised a total of US$ 1M. The round was led by Cocoon Capital and SGInnovate and Australia-based Blackbird Ventures also join the round.
About See-Mode Technologies
Headquartered in Australia, and with mass operations in Singapore, See-Mode seeks to improve stroke prediction with artificial intelligence-based medical software. The problem it is trying to solve is simply that current methods of managing and predicting strokes are insufficient. Harnessing the combined power of artificial intelligence and fluid dynamics, See-Mode is building tools to enable doctors to obtain critical stroke risk factors that are currently inaccessible in clinical practice.
To assist clinicians in improving their predictions about the risks of stroke and vascular diseases, See-Mode is developing novel solutions to improve the analysis of routinely collected medical images such as ultrasound, CT or MRI scans. Applying AI and computational models on these medical images, See-Mode’s enables clinicians to obtain critical stroke risk factors that may not be accessible in current clinical practice. This allows doctors to efficiently decide on the optimal treatment for patients, detect vulnerable plaques, set the precedence for creating better stroke screening, improve patient care and outcomes, without the need for additional tests.
Previously, See-Mode was an alumnus of Singapore-based talent investor Entrepreneur First.
About the founders
See-Mode Technologies is co-founded by Milad Mohammadzadeh and Sadaf Monajemi. The co-founders are Iranian husband-and-wife intent on equipping neurologists and other doctors with data to better assess the risks faced by stroke patients. Dr Milad has a PhD in Applied Physics from Nanyang Technological University. On the other hand, Sadaf holds a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National University of Singapore.
The couple were accidental entrepreneurs as they did not plan on starting their own business initially. After signing up for Entrepreneur First Singapore’s start-up bootcamp,
the couple initially went their separate ways looking for partners to team up, given that their specialities were in different fields. However, a chance conversation Dr Sadaf had with a “renowned neurologist from Singapore” pointed the way for the husband and wife to work together. They realised that half of the problem was related to her field in artificial intelligence and machine learning, while the other half related to her husband’s expertise in biomedical fluid dynamics.
About Augmented Vascular Analysis (AVA)
Augmented Vascular Analysis (AVA), the start-up’s debut and flagship product, is the world’s first medical AI software for automated analysis and reporting of vascular ultrasound scans. It has been approved as a Class B medical device by the Singapore Health Science Authority. AVA is commercially available in Singapore, with ongoing pilots in leading hospitals in Australia.
Using text recognition, deep learning, and signal processing technologies, AVA assists clinicians in interpreting and reporting vascular ultrasound studies, which is typically a manual and error-prone process. It significantly reduces the time taken to generate a report from approximately 20 minutes to less than a minute with just a single click. Overall, AVA results in greater accuracy, productivity, and improved patient outcomes.
Currently, AVA is waiting for regulatory approval in other regions, including the CE mark in Europe and from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The MedTech start-up is continuously updating the system by adding more image interpretation and reporting capabilities to AVA and expanding the product’s capabilities to new clinical use cases.
Tackling stroke is no small feat. “We are lucky to be working with an outstanding group of clinicians from leading research institutions globally to further validate our products,” said Dr. Milad.
Upcoming launch of products
The MedTech company is also working on two new products. The first product uses machine learning (ML) to help spot vulnerable plaque. The other product is based on computational modelling to detect high-risk blood flow.
See-Mode Technologies has completed strong proof-of-concepts for both its upcoming products with partners in Singapore and Australia. The company has now moved towards multi-centre clinical studies in collaboration with partners in Europe and the U.S.
The company is also starting a multi-centre clinical study with leading hospitals in Australia and USA.
About MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia (MMV SEA)
A return-focused venture capital firm, MassMutual Ventures (MMV) invests in early to growth stage companies across North America, Europe, Israel and Asia. The key areas of investment it focuses on includes financial technology, digital health, data analytics, cyber-security and enterprise software.
Earlier this year, MMV announced the launch of a second fund of US$ 100M for Southeast Asia, bringing its total capital under management to US$ 350M across four funds. One year after establishing MMV SEA, the Singapore-based team continues to build on its successful strategy of investing in early and growth-stage companies in the digital health, financial technology and enterprise software sectors.
The problem See-Mode aims to solve
According to Milad, about 25% of strokes around the world recur within a year of the patient’s first stroke. In Singapore, there are 7,000 new stroke patients each year. According to the Ministry of Health in Singapore, stroke accounted for one in 14 deaths. Therefore, it is the fourth most common cause of death. These statistics indicate how ineffective the current ways of predicting and managing strokes are.
Dr. Milad explained that currently, neurologists and clinicians rely on anatomical data from patients’ CT or MRI scans to make their assessments and come up with treatment plans for stroke victims. However, studies in the past three years have shown that anatomical data is just one factor to predict the risk of strokes happening, and it is not the key one, he said. Rather, physiological data such as blood flow has been found to be correlated with strokes, and should be factored in the overall assessment.
However, blood flow data is not available to neurologists as it is to cardiologists, who use the data to assess the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, Dr Milad shared. This, he explained, is because an invasive surgery would have to be done to collect patients’ blood flow data, and this is “too dangerous” to obtain for stroke patients, particularly those who suffer from intra-cranial ones, as this would mean operating on the brain.
To ascertain that this was indeed a problem faced by many, and not just one doctor, the couple then spoke to about 50 neurologists, radiologists and clinicians from countries such as the US, Sweden and other parts of Europe. Through these conversations, they narrowed down the problem to the one they are trying to solve: Assessing stroke risk beyond relying on traditional anatomical data. “The risk of having a stroke is not just about the shrinking of one’s blood vessels,” Dr Milad reiterated.
To come up with a solution, his expertise in biomedical fluid dynamics came into play. He was able to develop the software to simulate patients’ blood flow. With both anatomical and physiological information, doctors would be better able to assess and treat stroke patients, Dr Milad said.
About MedTech in Singapore
Using AI/ML in healthcare tools is growing in popularity across the world. While US$ 4B was invested in this sector in 2019, interest in AI/ML MedTech tools has grown exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic. It exposed gaping holes in the ability of global healthcare systems to contend with a crisis of this kind.
The MedTech sector in Asia-Pacific is expected to grow from US$ 88B in 2015 to US$ 133B by 2020, surpassing the EU to become the world’s second-largest MedTech market. In this region, Singapore is leading MedTech research and development as its government’s pushing towards becoming a Smart Nation. It has more than 60 multinational MedTech firms.
Drivers of Growth in Singapore’s MedTech Industry
Mobile health (mHealth), the use of mobile technology to monitor and share health information, is seeing increased adoption worldwide. The value of the global mHealth solutions market is expected to leap from US$ 21.17B in 2017 to US$ 90.49B by 2022. Consequently, MedTech companies in Singapore are increasingly leveraging devices that people use every day, such as smartphones and smartwatches, to provide medical information and encourage health monitoring. By leveraging standard-issue devices, MedTech companies can lower the cost of developing, delivering, and scaling their health solutions.
MedTech companies and start-ups have realised that their solutions must be based on what healthcare professionals and patients need. Design must be consulted with key stakeholders to make sure the solutions can integrate with current workflows and lifestyles, thus reducing user resistance. However, that doesn’t mean MedTech solutions won’t require a change in habits or institutional systems. There will certainly be a learning curve involved, especially for healthcare providers.
Gerald Koh, Clinical Director, Future Primary Care, Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation, said, “MedTech companies need to factor in change management of the healthcare team and patients in tech adoption.” He recommends having an interdisciplinary team centred around the healthcare staff and patients to help with implementation.
Government funding, academic expertise, a robust start-up ecosystem, and cooperation by legacy institutions all help fuel the growth of Singapore’s MedTech industry.
Bridging the gap between R&D and its application, the National Research Foundation has launched Singapore Health Technologies Consortium. It assists in connecting academics and industry partners.
In the future, MedTech stakeholders will increase their focus on disease management and mental health. This comes as no surprise given the growing elderly population and the increased prevalence of mental disorders.
A study by the Institute of Mental Health revealed that while “one in seven people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime,” a majority did not seek out professional help. MedTech solutions can provide personalised assessment and advice through devices, enabling people to avoid the discomfort of a face-to-face session.
Artificial Intelligence in MedTech
AI has become indispensable to the MedTech industry as MedTech solutions are increasingly relying on data. Investor activity supports this notion as global investment in healthcare AI companies amounted to almost US$ 1.6B in Q3 2019.
In MedTech, AI deploys descriptive and predictive analytics, chatbots for wellness coaching, and imaging analysis. For example, Singapore-based KroniKare uses an AI-enabled scanning device to enable the almost-instant, non-invasive assessment of chronic wounds. The device’s AI system measures the wound and evaluates it against 15 years of chronic wound data. It then generates an automatic report that healthcare practitioners can use as a basis for determining suitable treatment.
“AI in Health is typically predicted to be felt first in imaging, and Singapore is ahead of the curve in retinal imaging through the Singapore National Eye Centre,” said Prof Robert Morris, Chief Technology Strategist, Ministry of Health Office for Healthcare Transformation. However, with limited approval of AI-based medical devices, MedTech start-ups now have a better appreciation of regulatory barriers.
Investocracy, a company focused on connecting startups from emerging markets with Japanese investors, produced this article.
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