Artificial intelligence (AI) health care startup Cardiologs Technologies SAS scooped up $15 million in a series A funding round led by Alven Capital Partners. The Paris-based company, which has an artificial intelligence-based platform to quickly diagnose cardiac arrhythmias, plans to use the money to grow its sales and marketing efforts across North America and Europe. The funds will also be used to advance the platform’s capabilities.
Also participating in the financing were previous investors Bpifrance, Isai, Kurma Diagnostics, Idinvest Partners and Paris Saclay Seed Fund. With this latest round, Cardiologs has raised a total of $25 million.
“One of the key factors of this fundraising was our ability to demonstrate commercial results in the United States, which is always a challenge for a company that was not originally funded [there] and in particular in the med-tech sector. And the U.S. is our main market,” Yann Fleureau, Cardiologs co-founder and CEO, told BioWorld MedTech.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia, affecting between 2.7 million and 6.1 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030. Often asymptomatic, the first sign of trouble is often a stroke.
Five times faster results
Founded in 2014, Cardiologs’ U.S. FDA-cleared, cloud-based ECG analysis platform enables clinicians to use its AI-powered software to diagnose cardiac arrhythmias in a fraction of the time required to manually read and analyze a Holter monitor-generated echocardiogram – typically anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours.
“We reduce the manual labor by a factor of five, because our AI in our product actually removes a lot of the tedious and labor-intensive work,” Fleureau said. “As a result, we basically increase the throughput of the diagnostic center,” leading to faster turnaround on results, lower costs and improved outcomes.
The platform has been validated in a number of published studies. In a comparison of Cardiologs’ deep neural network (DNN) algorithm and Mortara Instrument Inc.’s Veritas algorithm in emergency room ECGs, Cardiologs accurately detected a major abnormality in 92.2% of cases vs. 87.2% for Veritas. The two algorithms had comparable sensitivity, but Cardiologs bested Veritas in both specificity and positive predictive value.
Establishing U.S. presence
The company opened an office in Boston in May of 2019 and will shortly begin ramping up its commercial efforts in the U.S. with a dozen new staff across sales, marketing, customer success and operations by the end of 2020. Fleureau emphasized that training and education are key to ensuring customer success and satisfaction and said those functions “are meant to scale” as the company grows.
“Tens of thousands of patients have been diagnosed using the Cardiologs analysis solution, and that number is projected to increase dramatically as the company continues its expansion in 2020,” Fleureau said.
“With its unique software build around a cutting-edge technology that blends deep learning with diagnostic clinical science and workflow, Cardiologs is already improving a traditionally manually processed industry to generate substantial improvements in the speed, cost and accuracy of diagnostics,” said François Meteyer, partner of Alven, a Paris-based venture capital firm with a track record supporting the expansion of French startups into the U.S. “This will be a key differentiator to build a new AI-based category in the cardiology field, democratizing the access to instant, reliable and affordable expertise for every patient, every test, everywhere.”
In addition to its commercial push, Cardiologs plans to use new capital raised to enhance its platform with new integrations and applications. While Fleureau would not share specifics on what those might be, he said they will be focused in two directions: increasing automation of diagnostics through further AI abilities and building predictive capabilities.
“Today, we are a diagnostic company … [and] we are telling what is the clinical status of the patient right now,” he said. “Obviously, one of the compelling promises of AI is … to predict their future clinical situation. So one of our areas of clinicals focus and scientific focus will be to further investigate and develop the capacity of our technology to not only provide a diagnosis but start predicting how could the clinical situation of the patient evolve.”
AI is hot
Cardiologs is not alone in attempting to leverage AI in the cardiac space. Eko Devices Inc. recently won an FDA breakthrough device designation for an ECG-based algorithm that could serve as a screening tool for heart failure during routine exams. Tech giant Apple Inc. is also eyeing the space. Researchers recently published final results from the Apple Heart Study, a collaboration of Apple and Stanford Medical Center, in which sensors embedded in the watch were used to monitor the volume of blood coursing through the wrists of Apple Watch users to look for AF and relay the information to them via their watches or Iphones. The results showed the likelihood of getting an irregular pulse notification was low. Of those who did, 34% had AF on follow-up ECG patch readings and 84% of notifications were consistent with the condition.
While Fleureau acknowledges the growing field of contenders, he doesn’t see them as direct competition for Cardiologs. “Most of the algorithms that are developed by these companies … are meant to empower a certain device and a certain use case, and as a result, it is super hard for the cardiologist to have a proper, unified solution,” he said.
Moreover, most algorithms typically generate data in 30 seconds to several minute intervals, vs. a traditional Holter monitor, which amasses ECG data over 24 hours to several days. What Cardiologs offers is the ability to read and analyze a much richer data set, which in turn increases the value for cardiologists and others processing the results.
With its eye steadily trained on arrhythmias in the near term and going deeper into that diagnosis, Fleureau sees opportunities for Cardiologs to leverage its platform in areas such as heart failure, remote patient monitoring and coronary artery disease down the road. “The field is really large, and there are many opportunities for applications of AI,” he said.