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Viz lands $7.5M to apply AI to stroke victims

Artificial intelligence acts as a physician's assistant in the emergency room

Financial trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
May 24, 2017
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/499e

How many people have had a friend or loved one experience a stroke? Raise your hand.

You're not the only one with a hand raised. A person is suffering from a stroke every 40 seconds, according to the National Stroke Association. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping your blood pressure at normal levels can help prevent a stroke.

For those who suffer a stroke, however, millions of brain cells die every minute that passes without treatment. The longer a person receives the right treatment, could result in them ending up in a nursing home vs walking out of the hospital.  

Now there's a solution to hopefully shorten the time between when a person gets a stroke and when they get the right treatment. Viz.ai is medical software that uses artificial intelligence to read a CT scan and assist physicians. The two-year-old company just raised $7.5 million in new funding, led by Danhua Capital, Innovation Endeavors (whose founding partner is Eric Schmidt). Jerry Yang's AME Cloud Ventures also participated. Viz is currently in the FDA approval process and expects to be approved by end of this year or early 2018.

Shortening the time between stroke and treatment became incredibly clear to Viz co-founder Chris Mansi when his neurosurgical team lost a patient after a successful surgery because it took more than four hours for the patient to be diagnosed and transported to the appropriate treatment center.  

"When a neurosurgeon reads a scans, there's a lot of things they're looking at," said Chris Mansi, co-founder and CEO of Viz, and a former neurosurgeon himself. "They’re typically complicated. We’re looking for distinct features. If you’re not a neurosurgeon, you’ve not seen enough of these scans. But by using AI, we can read these scans faster and get the readings to the right experts for their diagnosis."

Mansi explained that by delivering CT scans to the appropriate neurosurgeon for their expert take, "expertise is more distributed" and action can be taken much faster than today. Today, a patient comes in with stroke symptoms and they get a CT scan to check if they had a stroke and what kind.

The images are produced within minutes but even in top hospitals, it may take 30 minutes for the patient to get to the right specialist to assess and provide the appropriate treatment; it may take an hour in other hospitals.

It's that lag time that could kill someone, even if they ultimately get surgery, Mansi said.

As a graduate of Stanford GSB, he was fortunate to have had that commonality with his investors, such as Kevin Ding, Partner at Danhua, who are also Stanford graduates. "We have a strong focus on Stanford entrepreneurs," said Ding, who founded Danhua in 2013. 

"We systematically invest in AI technologies and specifically computer vision," said Ding. "This is a great application by taking an end-to-end approach within the healthcare vertical." Ding also explained that he liked Viz's approach to get FDA approval quickly. Viz is not providing diagnosis, but rather enabling communication. It's delivering the CT scans to referring doctors who ultimately make the diagnosis.

Viz is currently in the FDA approval process and expects to be approved by end of this year or early 2018.