Cloud-Based Arrhythmia Detection Tech Takes Top Prize at MEDICA Start-Up Competition

By Michael Barbella, Managing Editor | 11.21.22

Lab-on-a-chip, voice-based cardiac detection, and gait rehabilitation exoskeletons among those vying for cash and partnership opportunities.

Willem looks nothing like its namesake.

Willem is missing the faraway look, receding hairline, and full mustache and beard of Willem Einthoven, a Nobel Prize-winning Dutch doctor/physiologist and electrocardiograph inventor. Willem also lacks the doctor's modesty and athleticism (Einthoven participated in gymnastics, fencing and rowing).

Willem is devoid of any human capability (or emotion), actually. Not surprising, considering it's an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software platform designed to diagnose heart disease anywhere at any time.

Developed by Spanish healthtech firm Idoven, Willem augments clinicians' ability to identify, triage, and diagnose patients at scale. The company's software solution is cloud-based and can analyze ECGs (electrocardiograms) of any duration from any digital device to detect heart conditions. Idoven designed Willem to be hardware-agnostic to ensure its algorithms are trained on a complete signal database set, from one-lead smartwatch ECGs to 12-lead hospital ECGs and long-duration ambulatory ECGs. Willem's algorithms can identify more than 80 cardiac patterns at a cardiologist-level accuracy, according to Idoven Chief Operating Officer Rika Christanto.

"[Willem] can be used to interpret ECGs in the clinic or at home," Christanto said during the 11th MEDICA Start-Up Competition last week. "We have developed a deep-based learning system. The science is clinically validated."

Christanto's three-minute pitch about Willem and the technology's capabilities was one of a dozen presented during the two-hour competition at the world's largest medical trade show. Organized by Navispace GmbH, the MEDICA Start-Up Competition aims to drive innovation in both patient care and clinical practice. More than 250 applicants from 33 nations submitted their inventions for consideration; the contest’s administrators whittled that group down to 12 finalists in four categories—AI in Healthcare; Health Apps; Lab Diagnostics; and Robotics.

Idoven won first place at the competition, followed by AlgoDx (second) and Reactive Robotics GmbH (third). AlgoDx is a Swedish firm that developed a machine learning-based clinical decision support tool for predicting sepsis risk in ICUs. The technology was awarded the best startup of the year this past June by cloud computing provider OVHcloud.

Reactive Robotics is a German firm whose VEMOTION, an AI-driven robotic assistance system, provides early mobilization assistance to ICU patients. The company's technology allows clinicians to bring robot-assisted mobilization to patients' bedsides, as therapy is performed directly in an ICU bed.

The nine other finalists that competed in the MEDICA Start-Up Competition included: 

AI in Healthcare
AITRICS: A South Korean firm that developed a predictive solution for sepsis in hospitals (VitalCare) and a chronic disease prediction solution (RiskCare). The company raised $8 million in Series A funding last year via Premier Partners and including BNH Investment, Kiwoom Securities, JX Partners, BSK Investment, and other domestic venture organizations.

Health Apps
Cardiokol: A private Israeli company that created voice-based markers and methods for monitoring and screening heart rhythm disorders in large, at-risk populations. The firm's proprietary technology listens to the sound of a patient's voice over a mobile phone, landline phone, or smart speaker to detect and analyze vocal biomarkers that are indicative of heart rhythm disorders. The technology is CE Marked as a medical device.
Fimo Health GmbH: A German firm that designed an app for patients suffering from fatigue. The app helps patients better understand their symptoms and influencing factors for their disease.
Medanets oy: The Finland company's app is designed to simplify nursing routines and support decision-making. The app currentlly is used in roughly 20 hospital districts and 60 hospitals and clinics.

Lab Diagnostics
FRIZ Biochem GmbH: The German firm's technology enables safe molecular diagnostics. CYCLE Dx provides a complete diagnostic workflow in a miniaturized environment and transfers point-of-care diagnostics to the next level, while Lab direct enables qPCR analysis directly from untreated patient samples, without the need for an initial DNA/RNA extraction step.
Medfluid: A Taiwan company developing integrated LOC (lab-on-a-chip) microfluidic systems. Its O-in solution is a point-of-care testing molecular diagnostics system, providing one-shot PCR to identify six pathogens within 25 minutes.
Pythia Biotech Ltd.: The Taiwan firm's organ-on-a-chip aims to recreate a physiological and pathological environment ex-vivo. The technology integrates microfluidics, organoids, and bioreactors, and presents them on a microscope slide-sized chip. 

Marsi Robotics: A Spanish company that invented intelligent exoskeletons for gait rehabilitation. The exoskeletons adapt to each patient's needs and disease symptoms.
PhiCube: An Italian firm that developed a modular robotic device for upper limb rehabilitation. PhiCube adapts the rehabilitation parameters according to patients' actual capabilities and constantly collects data and measurements to assess performance.