Raise your hand if you’ve ever forgotten to take a pill you were prescribed? The chances are, if you’re in the U.S. at least, you probably have. The failure to take prescribed medicine, whether as part of a clinical trial or treatment regimen costs the U.S. healthcare industry roughly $378 billion dollars.
That’s a lot of money, and a lot of people who aren’t either getting completely better (which leads to the evolution of drug-resistant superbugs — illnesses that no longer respond to traditional treatments) or who are messing up expensive, vital clinical trials that prove the efficacy of new types of therapies.
In either case, it’s bad. Well, AiCure, a New York-based startup, has raised $12.25 million in new financing for its app that monitors patients adherence to their prescribed treatments.
The company has developed an app that automates the process of ensuring that patients are taking their medicine at the appropriate time. It’s simple in its execution, but involves some pretty complicated artificial intelligence on the back end, according to the company’s new chief scientist, Alejandro (Alex) Jaimes, who recently was recruited (or poached) from Yahoo.
Jaimes headed up a number of Yahoo’s artificial intelligence-related initiatives, specifically around machine vision and image recognition technologies.
Essentially, users take a picture of themselves taking their medicine at the pre-appointed time that they’re supposed to be taking their doses. Then that image is processed by the company’s software to ensure that the user is, in fact, taking the right medicine.
The magic is in the fact that the process is entirely automated. “This is not like a photo or a video. It automates a process in the medical community called direct observation,” says company chief executive Adam Hanina. “No human needs to be involved in the process.”
Ultimately, the company sees applications in mental health, clinical trials, and treatment of highly infectious diseases. The first place that the company has tried to win customers is in clinical research trials, where the need is most acute.
Since its launch, the company has raised $7 million in funding from the National Institute of Health, which recognizes how severe the problem of adherence to treatments can be and seems to see promise in the AiCure portfolio of 12 awarded patents.
The new investment, led by New Leaf Venture Partners, with participation from Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners and Biomatics Capital, the firm established by Bill Gates’ former advisor for science and Technology, will be used to continue the company’s research and development and build out its sales and marketing and operational divisions.