Digital Health Startup Aifred Wins Global AI Challenge, Plans to Expand Clinical Trials

Aifred Health, a Montreal-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to personalize treatment selection in depression, placed second in the $5 million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition, which seeks to accelerate adoption of scalable AI technologies to solve some of the toughest global challenges. Aifred’s founders want to tackle the treatment choice dilemma for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who are prescribed medications to help them in their battle with depression. Aifred’s AI model predicts probabilities of remission against available medications based on the unique characteristics of each individual patient, according to the company. IBM Watson Health provides Aifred Health with millions of records of observational depression data to improve its ML models. Aifred will use the $1 million prize along with its C$4 million seed financing to fund the North American clinical trial required to attain the FDA and Health Canada approval for its AI decision support, the company said in the statement.  Zzapp Malaria, which uses AI models to help eliminate malaria, and Marinus Analytics, a company on a mission to fight human trafficking, won the first and the third spots in the competition. The finalists were selected out of a pool of 10 companies who had presented their solutions to a panel of judges last year.  In total, over 150 teams throughout the world joined the challenge. 

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MIT’s ‘Intelligent Carpet’ Can Track Your Workout Without Cameras 

A new intelligent sensing carpet from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) can track human poses without using cameras, which could spur breakthrough innovation in healthcare and gaming.  The research team spent just $100 to build a large-scale carpet system, using commercial, pressure-sensitive film and conductive thread, with over 9,000 sensors spanning 36-by-2 feet. Each of the sensors converts the human’s pressure into an electrical signal, through the physical contact between the feet, limbs, torso, and the device, according to MIT.  The system was specifically trained on synchronized tactile and visual data, recreating the user’s 3D pose. The carpet can predict which exercise the person is doing with an error margin by less than 10 centimeters. For now the device understands the lower body and torso movements better than the upper-body data and can’t predict gestures without direct floor contact, like free-floating legs during sit ups, or a twisted torso while standing up, MIT News reports.  The team is planning to train the model to track multiple movements, creating a 3D model of people dancing or doing martial arts.  The carpet, which could span the entire floor plan, can be also used in healthcare to help detect falls. “You can imagine leveraging this model to enable a seamless health-monitoring system for high-risk individuals, for fall detection, rehab monitoring, mobility, and more,” Yiyue Luo, a lead author on a paper about the carpet, told MIT News. 

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FDA-Approved Video Game for Children with ADHD to Be Tested as a Post-COVID Treatment

A research team is testing Akili Interactive’s prescription-only digital application called EndeavorRx to see if it can help people who have lingering memory and attention problems after recovering from COVID-19. A JCTO study, “Improving Cognitive Health in COVID-19 Survivors Through Digital Therapeutics” tested whether a group of COVID-19 patients could show some improvement over time. Although it was designed to help children with ADHD, the game could also benefit adults with cognitive problems and multiple sclerosis. EndeavorRx, developed to improve attention function in children between the ages of 8 and 12, was released ahead of schedule in April 2020 in response to the pandemic. The treatment has been evaluated in more than 600 children with ADHD across five clinical studies, including randomized controlled trials.  It is an iPhone and iPad compatible game that promises to improve attention function and measures progress by computer-based testing. EndeavorRx uses an action-packed game to provide sensory stimuli and motor challenges for the parts of the brain responsible for attention. The game asks children to navigate through obstacle-filled paths, avoiding areas of danger while simultaneously collecting targets.  In May 2021, Akili Interactive received a massive $160 million fundraise. That funding includes a $110 million series D, double the amount Akili initially raised in its 2018 Series C. The new capital brings the decade-old company’s total venture funding to $230 million.

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