Docbot, which uses AI to detect gastrointestinal disease, raises $4M as it gets a new CEO

Steven Loeb · May 24, 2021 · Short URL:

The company has appointed Andrew Ritter, the co-founder and former CEO of Ritter Pharmaceuticals

Artificial intelligence is transforming the healthcare industry, as the global market for AI is expected to grow from $4.9 billion in 2020 to $45.2 billion by 2026. The technology has a number of different use cases; for example, artificial intellgence is being used by companies like Aidoc to analyze CT images of the head, chest, spine and abdomen, allowing radiologists to better detect abnormalities. 

Docbot is taking a similar approach to the use of AI in its solution, but is instead aiming it at the gut.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence to help gastroenterologists detect anomalies, announced a $4 million Series A round of funding on Monday, led by Khosla Ventures, with participation by Bold Capital Partners, Collaborative Fund and Boutique Venture Partners, bringing its total amount raised to $8.5 million.

In addition, the company also revealed that it has appointed Andrew J. Ritter, former CEO of Ritter Pharmaceuticals, as its new CEO. Former CEO Andrew Ninh will transition to a new role as Docbot's Chief Strategic Officer, where he will lead business development, strategic partnerships and innovation.

While it's not talked about as much as other diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, gastrointestinal problems are both widespread and expensive, with more than 22 million people visiting the doctor's office with diseases of the digestive system as the primary diagnosis, costing the system nearly $136 billion a year.

Founded in 2014, Docbot's lead product, called UltivisionAI, uses technology to highlight potential problem areas that might be missed by the human eye, providing actionable, real-time computer vision detection, automated reporting, and data-driven analytic tools to improve patient care and clinical workflows. 

"UltivisionAI applies machine learning and computer vision to highlight areas on the screen that the AI predicts to be suspicious, thereby pointing the gastroenterologist to inspect certain areas of the colon more closely with the goal of detecting lesions that would otherwise have been missed," Ritter explained. 

"Docbot is applying artificial intelligence to improve the detection and diagnostic accuracy of gastroenterologists during gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures. The UltivisionAI software platform is being trained to be able to be applied to the entire GI tract."

The company's main customers are healthcare facilities that perform colonoscopies, such as outpatient surgery centers and hospitals. Life science companies looking for more objective diagnostic methods for digestive diseases, are potential customers as well. 

While UltivisionAI is primarily focused on polyp detection for colon cancer prevention, it also developing detection algorithms for Barrett’s esophagus dysplasia and Ulcerative Colitis, among other indications. Currently, the platform alleviates the over $1 billion in treatment and maintenance costs associated with colorectal cancers that are directly caused by missed polyps.

A new CEO

Though his appointment was just announced, Ritter lists himself as having taken over the CEO job in January on his LinkedIn profile.

What made him a good fit to lead Docbot going forward, he told me, was his previous experience as co-founder and CEO of Ritter Pharmaceuticals, a leading biotech company developing gut microbiome therapies to treat gastrointestinal diseases. 

"I led the company from proof-of-concept through late-stage Phase 3 clinical development. Along the way, I helped steer the company’s public listing onto the NASDAQ, raised over $100 million in institutional capital and led its successful acquisition by Qualigen Therapeutics."

Including his time at Ritter Pharmaceuticals, he has over 16 years of experience working the in GI disease space.

"One of the greatest challenges in GI today is to reliably detect and diagnose a patient. AI technology has immeasurable potential to more objectively detect and diagnose patients. I’m intrigued by the potential UltivisionAI has on transforming the practice of GI and most importantly making an impact on patients GI health," he explained. 

The new funding will be used to launch a new clinical trial, as well as to expand the development team. It will also be used so that Docbot can seek FDA clearance for UltivisionAI. The company is currently undergoing a clinical trial to prospectively validate its technology to support detection of polyps during a colonoscopy procedure, though written couldn't give me any information on when the company might receive that clearance. 

Ultimately, he said, Docbot's mission is to provide the most powerful AI-assisted image analysis solutions to revolutionize GI care.

"We desire to transform the practice of Gastroenterology with AI. If you can scope it, we can detect it with UltivisionAI. Empowering physicians to more reliably and objectively detect and diagnosis GI disease."

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