Health Tech, Artificial Intelligence

Chairman of new Northwell/Aegis accelerator: It will build AI companies much faster

Northwell Health, the largest health system in New York, and startup studio Aegis Ventures announced Tuesday that they had launched the AI company creation platform Ascertain. The partnership brings $100 million in seed-stage funding and permanent long-term growth capital to launch companies at scale.

Increasingly, innovators in healthcare are looking to leverage artificial intelligence to help solve intractable issues like addressing staffing shortfalls and leveraging patient data to improve outcomes. But often even seemingly effective solutions are slow to be implemented—and that’s something two organizations are setting out to change with a new healthcare AI company creation platform.

Northwell Health, the largest health system in New York, and startup studio Aegis Ventures announced Tuesday that they had launched Ascertain to speed up  commercialization of novel AI companies in healthcare. The partnership brings $100 million in seed-stage funding and permanent long-term growth capital to fund and launch AI companies at scale, according to the organizations.

“Newly emerging AI companies are facing common challenges, including adoption by large customers for market validation, limited access to diverse data sets, misaligned incentives between different stakeholders and significant resource requirements,” said Tom Manning, the platform’s chairman, in an email provided by a representative. “Ascertain aims to systematically address these barriers in the healthcare marketplace.”

It will do that, in part, by leveraging Northwell Health’s clinical leadership and diverse datasets, which are representative of many communities across the U.S. and around the world, Manning said. The hope is that these newly-minted breakthrough healthcare AI companies will be able to improve quality and access to care and close health equity gaps.

“Ascertain aims to build healthcare AI companies much more rapidly than can otherwise be done,” Manning said.

The  joint venture has already started developing portfolio companies in partnership with Northwell’s clinicians and administrators. One of those early collaborations involves making meaningful improvements in maternal health, an area within healthcare that Manning said has historically been underserved by investors and entrepreneurs.

“It is also an area with significant health inequities,” he said.

Take, for example, preeclampsia, a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure that is potentially life-threatening. Preeclampsia affects Black women at three times the rate of White women, and tends to be more severe in Black patients, Manning noted. Northwell Health has been working to eliminate disparities like this in maternal health with its recently launched Center for Maternal Health. A health leader involved in that effort said the new AI company creation platform will be instrumental in helping achieve that.

“Existing approaches to the detection of preeclampsia often occur too late in pregnancy, once the condition has begun to manifest,” said Dr. Burt Rochelson, chief of maternal medicine at Northwell Health, in a statement. “An important enabler for a solution to this challenge is predictive analytics, applying available knowledge of a patient’s history to enable action far earlier with simple, yet lifesaving, clinical interventions. We believe the AI solution Ascertain is currently developing will enable this.”

With this initiative and others, the new platform is laser-focused on rapid solution development and speed to market.

Too often, existing AI solutions are developed but are not always effectively executed in real-world healthcare settings. We can quickly build [minimum viable product] solutions and test, iterate based on user feedback, and refine them to make them ready for the real world,” Manning said. “Coupled with our systematic approach to company creation, Ascertain accelerates the development of new lifesaving solutions that are carried through to the patient’s bedside.”

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