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Toronto health-tech company Think Research Corp. became the latest Canadian scale-up to list on public markets Wednesday, as it tries to take advantage of investors’ growing appetite for virtual care with a blend of digital and physical offerings.

Working with more than 2,800 health-care facilities across North America, Think Research applies the artificial-intelligence technique of machine learning to clinical evidence to help health professionals figure out the best method of care for a patient. The company also works to make health data more secure and shareable among health professionals, removing barriers in slow and cumbersome processes such as referrals.

Its algorithms can analyze a patient’s specific situation – factors such as symptoms, age, height and pre-existing conditions – and compare that information with mountains of data on past patients to determine the course of treatment. In doing so, Think Research hopes to ensure care is consistent, especially as patients move through health-care systems.

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The company began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange’s Venture Exchange Wednesday after the reverse-takeover of shell company AIM4 Ventures Inc. Though few Think Research shares traded hands Wednesday on the junior exchange, the price largely stuck near $5 a share, closing at $4.90 and valuing the company at about $179-million.

Think Research first proposed the reverse-takeover in October, later securing a private placement of $33-million co-led by Canaccord Genuity Corp. and Cormark Securities Corp. at a price of $4.65 a share. After a $14.6-million acquisition of Toronto’s HealthCarePlus Group of Clinics, which closed in December, the newly public company will also own a network of seven physical clinics in the Toronto region that also offer digital care.

Just a year ago, fast-growing Canadian tech companies were largely turning to private markets to fund their ambitions. But the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted public-market investors’ interest in technologies that will shape the future economy. “It’s been 10 years of change in health care in the past 10 months,” Think Research chief executive Sachin Aggarwal said in an interview.

Earlier this month, mental-health telemedicine company MindBeacon Holdings Inc. soared upon listing on the TSX, joining strong recent debuts from WeCommerce Holdings Ltd., Nuvei Corp. and Dye & Durham Corp.

The three-part Think Research transaction sets it up to take advantage of the explosive public interest in digital health brought on by the pandemic as it integrates HealthCare Plus into the company in its quest for better patient care.

Mr. Aggarwal said Think Research’s sales pipeline has “significant” opportunity, and though the HealthCarePlus clinic network already did some digital-first care for its 100,000-plus patients, he said he hopes the integrated company can deliver an even better experience.

“Our mission is to organize the world’s health knowledge so everyone gets the best care,” Mr. Aggarwal said.

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After raising about $50-million on private markets since the company was founded in 2006, Mr. Aggarwal said Think Research had “hard decisions” last summer about how it would seek its next round of financing, after the massive growth in digital-health businesses. “Moving to the public markets allows for a different kind of profile, different kind of growth, access to capital,” he said. “It’s an inflection point for health care.”

Kevin Smith, CEO of Toronto’s University Health Network, has followed Think Research since it was tasked last decade by Ontario’s provincial government to implement some of the company’s evidence-based technology across the province.

“It gives patients what they’re asking for: a clearer line of sight into their own health and into legitimate treatment plans,” Dr. Smith said. When it comes to care, he added, “I think they are helping to advance the democratization of information.”

Using data for better patient care is “a big part of the future of medicine,” said Eric Hoskins, a medical doctor who first encountered Think Research when he was Ontario’s health minister from 2014 to 2018, and who holds a PhD in epidemiology and public health from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Hoskins said he admires the rigour Think Research applies to data and clinical pathways. “They’re really focused on sifting through research data and best practices to provide clinicians the guidance they want to get the best patient outcomes possible,” he said.

In filings ahead of the public listing, Think Research said its revenue for its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2019, the most recent period for which full-year figures were available, was $17.3-million, up 16 per cent from the previous year. It lost $13.3-million in fiscal 2019, widening 7 per cent from fiscal 2018.

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