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Business News 21 June 2021

Researchers Eye Health Benefit From AI

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From Business News

A local player is Artrya, a start-up targeting heart disease.

Led by co-founders John Barrington and John Konstantopoulos, managing director and executive director, respectively, the Artrya team is using AI to more accurately identify patients at risk of coronary artery disease.

“John worked closely with IBM’s Watson health team globally, and my interest in technology has led me to believe that AI is fundamental to the future,”

Mr Barrington said. “It’s that interest which has inspired us to find out how we can harness AI rapidly and develop technology for the good of humanity.”

The pair met four years ago and spent 18 months researching the role ‘vulnerable plaque’ plays in heart disease.

Vulnerable plaque causes unstable blockages in blood vessel walls. Artrya launched in May 2019 and, perhaps surprisingly in this competitive space, its fundraising efforts were oversubscribed each time they went to the market.

In May, the company raised $15 million led by Bell Potter. Artrya’s team now includes Girish Dwivedi, a world-leading expert in vulnerable plaque and practising cardiologist, who was brought to WA by the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

“Girish then introduced us to Abdul Ihdayhid, a cardiologist and leading researcher in coronary blood flow,” Mr Barrington told Business News.

It was a perfect storm, he said, of brilliant minds brought together to keep the flywheel spinning. Artrya co-founder Mr Konstantopoulos said the statistics around heart disease were alarming.

“Sixty-four per cent of women and 50 per cent of men who die of heart attacks have no prior warning, and two thirds of those who die don’t exhibit significant narrowing of the arteries but do have build-up of vulnerable plaque,” he said.

Artrya has created a diagnostic solution that can identify within minutes if vulnerable plaque is present, as well as assessing blood flow, without the need to insert a wire up through the thigh and into the heart.

“The clinician can refer them to have a CT coronary angiogram, and from there, our AI ‘drives’ through each of the arteries, assessing faults and other problems,” Mr Konstantopoulos said.

The work could contribute to saving lives in clinics globally. “Heart disease claims 18 million lives a year; it’s the biggest cause of death in the world,” Mr Barrington said.

“That’s where we can contribute to society and create a high growth company in Perth, generating returns for our investors. Wherever the internet is available, you can diagnose using our technology.”

Artrya is currently undergoing trials with Wembley based Envision Medical Imaging and is planning national pilots followed by a commercial rollout.

“We’ve successfully concluded our third capital raising,” Mr Barrington said.

“We intended to raise $10 million, and we had more than $30 million in applications; we closed at $15 million.

“This technology is exponential; it’s accelerating at an increasing pace over time.

“It’s hard to predict where it’ll go over the next 10 years, but the capability of AI will dramatically develop beyond our imagination.”