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Health AI start-up raises $1.1m

Monday, 19 October 2020  
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Picture: HeartLab co-founder Will Hewitt

eHealthNews.nz editor Rebecca McBeth

HeartLab, which helps doctors diagnose and treat heart disease through artificial intelligence, has raised $1.1 million in a funding round to help bring its technology to the New Zealand market and expand its team. 

The MedTech start-up was founded less than two years ago at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute by Will Hewitt, while he was an 18 year old first year applied mathematics student at the University of Auckland, and cardiologist Patrick Gladding, an expert in cardiac imaging who has previously founded a company specialising in molecular diagnostics.

The company is building AI tools to improve the way doctors diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease by enabling doctors to extract significantly more information from an echocardiogram, the ultrasound test used to examine a patient’s heart structure and function. 

It also automates the repetitive and time-intensive tasks associated with taking measurements from these tests, speeding up the time needed by doctors to interpret the results, which is currently around 20 minutes for each test.

Hewitt says this will help get doctors off of their computer and back in front of their patients.

“The technology used when scanning the heart continues to improve, yet the technology available to help doctors review the scan has not kept up - it’s mostly a manual process. We are using AI to unlock more information from echocardiography so doctors can make better clinical decisions and improve patient outcomes,”  he says.

With aging populations increasing in many countries, demand for cardiac services continues to grow, and this demand is acute in New Zealand where there are only 100 registered cardiologists to review the 100,000 echocardiograms performed annually.

Gladding says New Zealand’s health system is under enormous pressure. 

“We can reduce the pressure on cardiologists, get more people through the health system and save thousands more lives by using HeartLab’s technology to help us,” he says. 

The funding round was led by Icehouse Ventures, with support from US-based Founders Fund and other private investors.

Icehouse Ventures chief executive Robbie Paul says, “HeartLab embodies so much of what we look for in startups. 

“They have unique perspectives on the world, their tech is based on highly intellectual foundations and university research, and they have the brave ambition to apply technology that addresses the world’s number one killer disease.”

If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.

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