July, 22, 2017
Can artificial intelligence enhance the medical diagnosis process?
16 Jun
2017
Posted by Madhumita Prabhakar

Backed by a string of notable investors including pi Ventures, Accel, IDG and Flipkart’s Sachin and Binny Bansal, SigTuple, is soon launching its flagship solution, Manthana, which will use AI models to analyse medical data, for various diagnostics processes. While the current solution is designed for peripheral blood smear analysis, the company is building a portfolio of solutions for blood, urine, semen, retinal and chest x-ray analysis.

With over a decade of experience in technology across companies like Yahoo and American Express, Rohit Kumar Pandey, Apurv Anand and Tathagato Rai Dastidar founded SigTuple, a data driven intelligence platform for medical diagnosis, in 2015. Recalling their founding days, Pandey says, “We noticed that the healthcare industry in India had vast amounts of dormant data. The simple thought was: Can we make medical diagnosis more efficient by using historical medical data?”.

The first solution developed by the company is called Manthana, the medical intelligence platform targeted at hospitals and labs. The platform operates as an indigenous continuous learning solution, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) models hosted on it for different tests. These AI models analyse data and generate a detailed report powered by visual evidence. And, this report is in turn made available to the medical expert who can review and approve it for the patient.

“The medical experts can be in any part of the globe and they can review the report and approve it for the patient. The sample, medical device and medical expert need not be co-located,” adds he. In other words, the solution runs on a hub and spoke model, with the medical experts positioned at the hubs and the devices established in spokes. Currently, its flagship solution has been designed for peripheral blood smear analysis but soon, the company envisions bringing its common screening solutions for blood, urine, semen, retinal and chest x-ray scans to the market. “While the blood smear analysis is still in beta, we hope to start pan-India distribution by end of this year,” notes Pandey.

Starting from Scratch

While SigTuple has made significant strides in the industry, the early days were a crucial learning period for the trio given their lack of experience in the field of medicine and healthcare technology. “The first and foremost was gaining the domain knowledge. There were challenges with data acquisition, data digitisation, data annotations, regulatory and compliance requirements, and rapidly evolving technology,” recollects Pandey. Added to that was the battle of getting many firsts into the company; the right mentors, the first data partner and digitising data which existed in the form of physical slides. “We were fortunate to get early support from veterans in the medical industry. As for digitising data, it was a fascinating moment when we could convert a normal microscope into a digital scanner by adding electromechanical components and a cellphone,” shares Pandey.

With AI-based products in India still in its formative stage, the founder indicates that the company does not face much competition from other related businesses in the country. Rather, he sees it competing with companies in the US and Europe. “Many startups are using AI across industries and they have already tasted the initial success. Overall, the opportunity looks promising. With respect to the healthcare landscape, we’re convinced that AI and machine learning will enable an expert to make critical decisions,” states Pandey.


The usage of any technology determines whether it is a bane or boon. In our case, we are using it to improve the efficiency of the medical experts, improve the quality of reporting and extend the reach of quality healthcare


Scaling a Geography-Agnostic Solution

In the last two years, the company has raised a total of US $6.54 million across two rounds (seed and Series A), from a string of notable investors. While the first round was supported by Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal, Accel Partners, Dr. Nirupa Bareja, Ashok Bareja and Debanjan Mukherjee, its Series A investors were Accel Partners, IDG Ventures, Endiya Partners, pi Ventures, Axilor Ventures, VH Capital, and existing investors, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, and Amit Singhal. Pandey tells us that the funds from the latest round will be channelised towards growing the 25-member team further, scaling up the platform, setting up a hardware pipeline, meeting regulatory and compliance requirements for various markets, and most importantly, introducing its solutions to the market.

Particularly, with its solutions being geography-agnostic, the company plans to explore South East Asia and the Middle East markets too, owing to the demand for such solutions there. “The usage of any technology determines whether it is a bane or boon. In our case, we are using it to improve the efficiency of the medical experts, improve the quality of reporting and extend the reach of quality healthcare,” he says, on a concluding note.


Snapshot

SigTuple

Founders: Rohit Kumar Pandey, Apurv Anand and Tathagato Rai Dastidar

Year: 2015

Investors: Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal, Accel Partners, Dr. Nirupa Bareja, Ashok Bareja, Debanjan Mukherjee, Amit Singhal, Accel Partners, IDG Ventures, Endiya Partners, Pi Ventures, Axilor Ventures and VH Capital.


The opportunity:

Medical experts waste a lot of time looking at raw medical data from diagnostic tests; Moreover, lack of medical experts in certain geographies mean that certain tests are not performed in some labs.

The solution:

SigTuple uses artificial intelligence and big data techniques on top of dormant medical data to generate automated reports, that are visual in nature. Then, medical experts approve these reports for a patient and use their time more efficiently and to serve clients in remote locations.

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