Elad Walach (CEO), Michael Braginsky, Guy Reiner
Magma Venture Partners, TLV Partners, and Emerge
Aidoc is a new and outstanding player in artificial intelligence (AI) for analysis of radiology images, which is likely to revolutionize the way hospitals handle them.
This sector has been gaining momentum in Israeli high tech in recent years. The pioneer is Zebra Medical, which "Globes" selected as one of its most promising startups in 2015. When Zebra was selected, Aidoc did not really exist yet. "We are three partners, alumni of the Talpiot program (an IDF program for recruits with scientific and leadership potential)," says Aidoc CEO Elad Walach. "We all worked in AI and machine learning in the IDF, but we wanted to work in the health sector because of its importance and the change that can be generated in it."
The group developed an algorithm that detects situations in medical images requiring immediate intervention and alerts medical staff, for example in emergency rooms. The development began with brain scans, but is now applicable to the entire body. It helps detect strokes, internal bleeding, compound fractures, and other problems in which the time that passes before treatment begins is critical.
The company presented its basic algorithm to a number of hospitals in Israel and around the world in 2016. They were impressed by the development and worked together with Aidoc to make it into a real product. The company received its first investments only after this cooperation began.
"We developed quickly, because there was strong demand in the market for such a product," Walach says. "Radiologists today go through hundreds of scans a day. Managements of hospitals eagerly welcomed us and enabled us to validate and improve our algorithm on 50,000 scans up until the first commercial installation of the product, which took place a year later."
In order to get started, he says, "We had to understand when and how to use the system so that it would really generate value for the patient, and also to quantify its benefit - How much time did you save? How many lives did you save? In addition, we had to work on the user interface. We try to bring the same user experience as with a consumer electronics product. You can't imagine how important this is in installing the solution."
Today, a little over a year after the first commercial installation of the system, the product has been installed in 50 hospitals, all of which are paying customers, with hundreds of thousands of scans examined.
You are three young entrepreneurs in your first management jobs, with no background in medical technology. How did you make up the gap?
Walach: "It's true that the three of us are 30 years old with no medical background, but our customers now are sure that we're doctors. We spent a great many hours in hospitals in order to understand what the daily use of the product looks like and what the needs are. We also have doctors on the consultation team."
This year, the company this year received its first approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for one of its radiology products, which can now provide a basis for a medical decision. "We work very closely with the FDA, so that the innovative nature of this technology does not create a regulatory barrier to bringing it to the public," Walach explains.
It sounds as though the hospitals have welcomed you with open arms. Aren't the radiologists afraid that such a system jeopardizes their status?
"On the contrary. The radiologists I spoke with want to be part of the revolution in the field. Our product won't replace a radiologist. There are decisions that AI can't make, and we'll always examine the scans together with them. We'll help them, first in decisions that depend on rapid response time, then later by expediting processes that take a long time."
What's the main difference between you and Zebra Medical?
"We deal only with improving radiologists' work. Zebra also has other models; they do excellent work in locating unexpected findings beyond scans in order to detect problems that the scans were not designed to find, but which exist and should not be overlooked. In principle, the customers and the business model are different."
Are you currently trying to raise investment?
"We have raised $13 million from the funds to date. Although we have revenue now, we'll be glad of further investment to speed up development. We'll consider investment from someone in the medical field, but the most important thing for us is the personal chemistry with the investors."