iFlytek, the largest publicly-listed AI technology company in the Asia-Pacific region has further advanced its healthcare initiative by leading the Pre-A round investment into Cyrcadia Asia, a company developing a smart wearable bra insert that provides accurate early breast cancer detection.
While iFlytek is already a recognised a leader in speech technologies, it has made recent advances in AI applications for healthcare. In November 2017, the company grabbed attention when its “Xiaoyi” AI-powered robot successfully aced the national medical exam, the qualifying test for doctors in China, with 456 points, 96 points above the pass mark. iFlytek Health has now deployed its AI capability in over 50 hospitals in its native Anhui Province, China, to provide support to general practitioners in diagnosis and treatment, and in interpreting medical images including breast imaging. iFlytek Health, its healthcare division established in 2016, is headed by CEO Dr Tao Xiaodong, a veteran technologist of Philips and GE Healthcare who brings a wealth of expertise in medical imaging and computer-aided diagnostics. Dr Tao also joins the board of Cyrcadia Asia.
Cyrcadia closes its Pre-A round with a total raise of US$3.8 million. Following iFlytek’s lead in the round were a number of other Asian investment funds and private investors. The Pre-A funding enables Cyrcadia to complete product development and launch into Hong Kong and other Asian markets in late 2018. Cyrcadia’s device is a revolutionary sensor patch worn under a women’s bra which, with two hours of monthly wear, allows women to monitor their breast health from an app on their mobile phone. The technology uses cloud-based AI to monitor for circadian metabolic changes that are proven to correlate to the onset of cancer. The technology has particular advantages in Asia, where screening participation is low, cancer incidence rates are increasing, and where the majority of the female population have dense breast tissue, for which traditional imaging technologies are less accurate.
Cyrcadia’s launch in Asia makes use of over 10 years of research, extensive trials in the US and an existing US FDA 510kclearance. The product development has been backed by Nypro, the specialist medical device division of global manufacturing services company Jabil (NYSE: JBL) and production is scheduled to start at Nypro’s Shanghai facility in summer of 2018.
Commenting on the deal, Tao Xiaodong said: “We are excited to play a leading role in the development and launch of Cyrcadia’s technology. iFlytek is already harnessing the power of AI in healthcare, but Cyrcadia’s technology, by using metabolic change to detect disease, can leapfrog many of the current drawbacks of imaging and human interpretation. We are also excited by the promise of Cyrcadia’s technology as a consumer wearable device, providing real-time monitoring for women at their own convenience. As Cyrcadia’s user base grows, it has the potential to be the world’s largest data base of breast health and breast cancer incidence, and we hope in the near future we can make a major contribution to research, prevention and treatment of the disease.”
Rob Royea, CEO and Chairman of Cyrcadia Asia, said: “We are delighted to have iFlytek backing us as both an investor and as a strategic partner at the cutting edge of AI and healthcare. Cyrcadia’s technology will empower women to monitor their breast health with more comfort and convenience than the current screening methods, and will likely save lives through detecting cancers at an earlier stage, when they can be much more easily treated, often without chemotherapy. The partnership with iFlytek opens numerous avenues for deployment of cloud-based AI applications for improved breast cancer diagnosis for all clinicians.”
In addition to the investment, iFlytek and Cyrcadia Asia will be exploring how to integrate Cyrcadia’s technology into iFlytek’s healthcare offering in China. Cyrcadia Asia will be pursuing Series A fundraising in the third quarter of 2018 to fund its further expansion outside of its launch markets.