MONTRÉAL, July 25, 2022
Today, Ubenwa, a pioneering developer of diagnostic software for the rapid detection of medical anomalies in infant cry sounds, announced a pre-seed financing led by AI-focused Radical Ventures and AI pioneer Yoshua Bengio. A spinout from Mila – the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, Ubenwa is working with Montreal Children’s Hospital and pediatric hospital networks around the world, to build a platform for sound-based diagnostic tools, combining groundbreaking AI research and clinical insights.
“AI is well-suited to deriving insights from the sound signature of an infant cry,” said Yoshua Bengio, the AI pioneer who heads Mila. “Charles Onu’s leading research into identifying biomarkers in baby cry sounds offers the promise of unlocking our understanding of what’s behind a baby’s cry.”
For both clinicians and parents, an infant’s cry is difficult to diagnose. Babies cry for several reasons such as when they are hungry, exhausted or have colic. But a baby’s cry can also be a signal that more urgent care is required. Delayed diagnosis may lead to severe, long lasting effects or fatality. Ubenwa has developed accurate algorithms for cry activity tracking, acoustic biomarker detection and anomaly prediction, turning infant cries into clinically-relevant insights and potential diagnoses. The company’s first pilot on detecting neurological injury due to birth asphyxia demonstrated about 40% improvement over APGAR scoring, the most common physical exam at birth.
“Ubenwa is building a diagnostic tool that understands when a baby’s cry is actually a cry for medical attention,” said Charles Onu, CEO and Co-founder of Ubenwa who has pioneered the use of audio signal processing and machine learning to better understand infant cry sounds. “Ultimately, our goal is to be a translator for baby cry sounds, providing a non-invasive way to monitor for medical conditions everywhere you find a baby: delivery rooms, neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, nurseries, and in the home.”
Ubenwa’s technology is based on a foundation of scientific research developed in close collaboration with Mila, and six hospitals in three countries including Montréal Children’s Hospital, Enugu State University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, Rivers State Teaching Hospital in Nigeria and Santa Casa de Misericordia in Brazil. The company has the largest and most diverse clinically-annotated database of infant cry sounds, an essential asset for the development of audio-based biomarkers.
“Cry analysis has the potential to provide critical information for identifying babies with evolving brain problems,” said Dr Guilherme Sant'Anna, Neonatologist at Montreal Children’s Hospital and Professor at McGill University. “A non-invasive diagnostic tool of this nature would be a powerful clinical resource for pediatric medicine. We are very happy to be collaborating with Ubenwa to realize this through well-controlled clinical studies.”
Ubenwa raised $2.5M USD in a pre-seed round that attracted top AI venture funds and researchers. Radical Ventures led the round which included participation from returning investor AIX Ventures, a fund co-founded by AI researchers and entrepreneurs Pieter Abbeel and Richard Socher. Turing award winner Yoshua Bengio also invested in Ubenwa alongside Google Brain’s Hugo Larochelle and Marc Bellemare.
“Supported by a strong clinical foundation, Ubenwa has developed a proprietary innovation for an underserved and important market,” said Sanjana Basu, an Investor with Radical Ventures who joins the Ubenwa board. “Deciphering a baby's cry using machine learning can open up a range of possibilities in the consumer and clinical pediatrics market where demand for better digital products is only growing.”
Ubenwa is building the future of automated sound-based medical diagnostics by leveraging cutting-edge AI research. With a team of award-winning scientists, engineers and medical professionals, the company has developed the first technology for rapid detection of neurological conditions in infants using only their cry sounds. Ubenwa’s breakthrough technology is based on years of scientific research in close collaboration with Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute as well as pediatric hospitals across 3 countries including the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Ubenwa’s technology has applications in home monitoring, primary health, and in guiding neurodevelopmental care. The company is backed by leading venture capital funds and AI luminaries. For more information, visit www.ubenwa.ai.
Radical Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm investing in people applying artificial intelligence to shape the future of how we live, work and play. From healthcare and financial services to infrastructure and manufacturing, Radical partners with entrepreneurs who understand the transformational power of AI. Learn more at www.radical.vc.
AIX Ventures is an early-stage venture firm that is made up of some of the world’s top AI practitioners and is dedicated to empowering AI entrepreneurs. The $50M Fund I is focused on PreSeed and Seed startups. Learn more at www.aixventures.com.