Data & Analysis

VC Investing: The Convergence of AI and Healthcare

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Quark Venture’s Partner & CEO weighs in on the future of AI and its role in the healthcare vertical

There’s been plenty of media coverage lately about artificial intelligence. Most reporting has been generated through the vastly different views of people like Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, and Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook.

Musk maintains society should approach AI with tremendous caution and warned recently in a tweet that AI poses a greater risk to civilization than the nuclear threat from North Korea. Zuckerberg has taken a more welcoming and positive approach to AI while pushing back on Musk’s claim, asserting, I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — It’s really negative, and in some ways, I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”

Putting aside the posturing, the debate of ideas and predictions, there’s been little attention payed to the immediate beneficial use of AI technology — particularly as a tool in existing human issues like healthcare.

Illinois-based PhysIQ is a company utilizing AI technology in the healthcare field. The company transforms physiological data from wearable bio-sensors into personalized insight which offers leverage for pharma, med device companies and clinicians to establish new and differentiated clinical endpoints.

On July 25th, CVCA member Quark Venture helped close an $8M series B for PhysIQ. The latest funding will be used in support of the commercial launch of the PhysIQVitaLink solution. The solution collects continuous physiological patient data from wearable and implantable sensors and applies AI technology to transform this data into personalized patient insight.

Karimah Es Sabar, Chief Executive Officer & Partner, Quark Venture is very optimistic about the potential for artificial intelligence to help improve medical diagnosis.

[AI in the use of healthcare is] going to be game-changing. The convergence of IT and medicine is fundamentally very promising. This intersection will allow physicians to be able to diagnose, treat, prescribe and intervene in patient management much better,” offered Es Sabar. So, we’re very optimistic about it and we’re quite bullish in investing in this area.”

While AI and AI in healthcare aren’t new areas for investing, interest from investors in this specific sector is gaining momentum.

Considering Portfolios That Are Intersecting AI & Healthcare

[Investors are] in the learning mode right now. There is an enormous amount of interest and it’s definitely moving in this direction,” says Es Sabar. “[Quark Venture has] invested in PhysIQ and we’ve invested in a big data company called PHEMIas well, so this is a space that we’re really starting to see this emerging convergent technology in healthcare and biotech.”

There’s no doubt the pairing and creation of synergies from data collection companies like PhysIQ with companies like Vancouver-based PHEMI makes sense. PHEMI is a big data warehouse company that lets organizations easily access and mine any variety of data at any volume. It’s this associative approach to healthcare that’s encouraging to Es Sabar.

The opportunity is the collaboration and working of biologists with IT experts and with artificial intelligence experts in developing that next generation of technology. I think it’s not going to be the separation and silo that we’ve seen historically where they come together at the end. I think the real future is folks working in an interdisciplinary way right from the onset and I think the opportunities are enormous.”

While interest in investing in AI in healthcare is ramping up, Ed Sabar says it’s important investors continue learning as the technology rapidly evolves.

I think one of the things that’s really important is to become knowledgeable and to have knowledge spread. I’d like to see more of the experts talking about this and presenting in a knowledgeable way that makes sense to people and simplifies it for the investors. We need to be talking about the potential of both AI and healthcare, it’s benefits and the things that we need to watch out for. So, I think there needs to be a bit more active expert validated determination of information.”

Employing AI technology for healthcare seems like a natural fit. On what to expect in the future, Es Sabar doesn’t offer any headline seeking statements like those visionary CEOs in Silicon Valley.

I’m not an expert. But, I can tell you there are some very interesting people working in this area and we’re just at the cusp of it. This it just the beginning of it.”

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