Think Research Corp., a Toronto-based startup that uses artificial-intelligence technologies to help health care professionals determine the best treatment for patients, has raised $25-million from Canadian and U.S. investors.
The financing was led by Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., with additional funding from new investors Fidelity Investments Canada ULC, National Bank of Canada and the private growth-equity arm of U.S.-based Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, LP. The $25-million is new capital; the company also raised an additional undisclosed amount to buy out some early investors, whom were not identified.
Think Research works with more than 1,200 health care facilities across North America and Europe, applying algorithms to clinical evidence to assess treatment outcomes.
Chief executive Sachin Aggarwal gives the example of an elderly person in need of a hip replacement. The company can collect tens of thousands of hip-replacement cases – with details about what brought patients to seek care, the specific kinds of treatments they received and how they fared after being released from hospital – then apply algorithms using the artificial-intelligence technique of machine learning to that data. This helps clinicians determine the best artificial-hip kit to use for a patient specifically for their age, weight and gender.
With enough data, this can broadly result in better care at lower costs – and Think Research hopes to double its number of health-care clients annually with help from its new financing round.
“The next generation of care will be driven at least in part by data – and we can improve peoples' lives on the back of that data,” Mr. Aggarwal said. “For us, this is critical. We want to be a world leader – we want to be exporting this knowledge – and that means having a trusted relationship with the patients that are providing it and to be able to use it.”
The company says it doesn’t own patients' highly sensitive medical data; their hospital or long-term care facility is its custodian, Mr. Aggarwal said. The data are stripped of identifying information so that they can be studied by the company’s algorithms in aggregate. As it expands into jurisdictions such as the European Union, which implemented the General Data Protection Regulation earlier this year, the company has made more stringent privacy-compliance features available, which it expects to roll out more widely as other countries follow suit.
Think Research was founded by Mississauga physician Chris O’Connor last decade as he sought to reduce errors in “patient order sets,” or templates for making evidence-based clinical decisions, that were often delivered with handwritten notes. The company sought to help health-care professionals to better collaborate, building a cloud platform to share knowledge.
Investors have had an eye on Canadian health-tech companies this year. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Canada recently reported that despite a 42-per-cent quarter-over-quarter drop in venture investment overall in the third quarter of 2018, “digital health” financings saw a 168-per-cent jump, to US$83-million. This was largely boosted by the US$47-million expansion round raised by League Inc. in July. “We’re seeing more promise in the belief that a heavily regulated health-care industry can indeed be digitized,” wrote PwC managing director Shivalika Handa in the report.
Earlier this year, Kayne Anderson invested $17-million in Ottawa senior-care-tech company Careworx Corp. Nishita Cummings, the California-based partner with the firm’s growth-equity division, said that Think Research marked its eighth investment in Canada – a country her firm sees as having strong tech-sector momentum and as well-positioned to benefit from growth-stage capital.
Kayne Anderson also has connections to U.S. health-care facilities; Ms. Cummings said they hope to help Think Research expand more quickly into the United States through their network and improve health-care treatments on a broad basis.
In the past, Think Research has seen investment from Epic Capital Management and funding from Ontario’s Jobs and Prosperity Fund. It has 220 employees, and expects to add another 100 over the next year.