Heart disease AI diagnostics med-tech Artrya to list at $105m valuation

Heart disease AI diagnostics med-tech Artrya to list at $105m valuation

Artrya co-founders John Barrington AM and John Konstantopoulos.

A Perth-based company aiming to alleviate the world's leading cause of death through smarter diagnostics has lodged a prospectus with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), with a view to list on the ASX in November at an enterprise value of up to $105.45 million.

With commercial trials of its technology now underway in Perth and Sydney, Cardiac imaging software company Artrya plans to raise $40 million in an initial public offering (IPO) with shares issued at $1.35 each.

Artrya managing director and co-founder John Barrington AM says the company is offering investors an exciting opportunity to invest in an innovative business with a mission to save lives through better detection of a major world-wide disease.

"There is a large and growing need for better diagnostics around coronary artery disease," he says.

"With nine million people dying from the disease each year globally, the pressure on health systems is already substantial, and it’s only going to increase over the next few decades with ageing populations.

"This float will assist the company in its next stage in expansion."

To date the group has received $19 million start-up funding to develop, test and commercialise its software, with early support received by received from highly respected angel investors and the Australian Government’s premier Medical Research Future Fund initiative, the BioMedTech Horizons program.

The bulk of that funding came from a $15 million private placement in May that was managed by Bell Potter, lifted from $10 million due to an oversubscribed round with $30 million worth of applications.

Barrington tells Business News Australia the surplus funds were not needed at the time given Artrya's planning horizon, but in September the company embarked on its commercialisation pathway through a partnership to run trials with Perth-based radiology practice Envision Medical Imaging.

Artrya's core proprietary solution Salix has been admitted by the Thereapeutic Good Administration (TGA) as a Class 1 product, meaning it is free to be commercialised and licensed in Australia.

The funds from the IPO will go towards further research and development, as well as supporting international expansion in 2022 with regulatory approval applications already filed with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with other regulatory filings to be made in the near future in Canada, the EU and the UK.

Co-founded by Barrington and John Konstantopoulos in May 2019 following 18 months of research exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) could be help tackle health problems, the pair made a calculated bet on the "great capabilities of deep learning algorithms" for medical image analysis.

"From imaging we went to heart because heart disease is the largest cause of death in the world," says Barrington, who upon the launch of the company enlisted the expertise of Professor Girish Dwivedi, a world-leading expert in vulnerable plaque cardiology, as Artrya's chief medical officer (CMO).

"There are 18 million people a year who die of heart disease – we’re particularly looking at coronary artery disease, which affects 126 million people in the world. The coronary artery disease which we’re addressing kills nine million people every year.

"The majority of those who die of coronary artery disease have no warning of impending heart attack."

He says diagnosis today tends to come from cardiac, computed tomography and geography (CCTA) reporting that is focused calcification and stenosis, but this measure has its flaws while radiographers are also under increasing time pressure.

"The calcification is hard plaque in the coronary arteries. It builds up and it causes a narrowing of the arteries called stenosis," Barrington explains.

"The majority of those people who die have less than 50 per cent stenosis, so stenosis is actually not the real cause of death by heart attack. It’s an indicator, but the strongest indicator and medical research verifies the strongest predictor of death by heart attack is the presence of a soft plaque known as vulnerable plaque.

"It's described as 'vulnerable' because it’s vulnerable to break off from the coronary arteries to rupture, and when that particular type of soft plaque breaks off, that is what causes the coronary event - the heart attack."

However, he says vulnerable plaque is very difficult to identify with the naked eye.

"People have to be specially trained, but because of the difficulty in identifying it, it takes a long time to report it, and the radiologists are under great time pressure and growing pressure because of the ageing population and the focus on health and pressure to report," he says.

"That is why vulnerable plaque is not generally reported in a usual CCTA scan, whereas whereas the machine, the AI algorithms, are looking at pixels and they can identify the vulnerable plaque and report it within 15 minutes."

The technology was developed by training machine learning algorithms on CCTA scans provided by Envision, giving Artrya access to more than 20,000 scans that the team could train and validate the algorithms against.

He says early signs show Salix has a 70 per cent accuracy at this point with the vulnerable plaque identification, compared to clinicians’ research-supported evidence that shows expert readers run at 56-69 per cent accuracy.

"So we're above the the expert reader accuracy," he says.

"We report the traditional biomarkers like the calcification score – that’s above 90 per cent accuracy and the stenosis is above 92 per cent accuracy as well, and the vulnerable plaque recognition is above the accuracy of the human readers."

Barrington adds negotiations are taking place with radiology chains interstate and expects more chains to be running pilot trials of the Salix technology in November.

When asked how many patients would be participating in the Australian trials, the co-founder is not able to give a precise number but estimates it will be in the thousands.

An unrestricted launch across Australia is currently planned for early 2022.

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