Aifred Health among top three finalists in IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition

Aifred Health

Aifred Health, a Montréal-based startup that offers clinical solutions for mental health treatments using artificial intelligence (AI), has been selected as one of three finalists for the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.

AI XPrize is a five-year competition with three judging rounds. Montréal-based Aifred Health was one of more than 700 applicants for the competition, which is aimed at encouraging the use of AI to solve challenges faced around the world.

“To be named as one of the top three global AI teams in the world is an incredible accomplishment and endorsement.”

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE finalists in the latest round were selected out of a pool of 10 semifinalists following presentations of their solutions to a panel of judges during an event held at TED headquarters in New York City last year.

“To be named as one of the top three global AI teams in the world is an incredible accomplishment and endorsement of our approach to better serving patients suffering from depression,” said Marina Massingham, CEO of Aifred Health.

Founded by four McGill University graduates, Aifred Health uses AI to help mental health practitioners find the right treatments for their patients quickly. The company’s app asks patients a series of standardized questionnaires on a weekly basis and gives clinicians access to more data on their patients’ ongoing health. The app then uses AI to help clinicians determine personalized treatment methods for patients.

Aifred Health plans to begin its regulatory approval clinical trial for depression in the first half of this year.

In December, Aifred Health raised a $4 million CAD seed round. The round was co-led by MEDTEQ and BDC Capital, with participation from the Desjardins Group, Highline Beta, and other private and institutional investors that the company did not disclose.

“The prize money, along with our $4 million seed financing, is being used to fund the clinical trial required for regulatory approval of our AI decision support device for depression and further development of our therapy-agnostic AI tool in other areas of high unmet medical need,” said Massingham.

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The fact that the only Canadian startup remaining in this global competition is based in Montréal is notable, as the city is well-known for its active AI ecosystem. The city has attracted a number of global firms looking to increase their work in AI. Along with Samsung and Google, which have increased hiring or opened new bases in the Québec-based city, Ericsson and Unity Labs have also opened hubs specifically focused on developing and commercializing AI technology. Montréal has also been the birthplace of a number of prominent AI startups, including Element AI, acquired last month for $230 million USD.

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE was originally slated to be a four-year competition, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers opted to extend it by one more year, in order to give finalists more time to continue to work on their products.

Each team’s technologies are evaluated across four categories: achieved technical impact, evidenced real-world impact, scalability of real-world impact, and ethics and safety.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition will conclude in June 2021, where the finalists’ AI technology will compete for a $3 million grand prize, $1 million second-place prize, and $500,000 third-place prize.

Image source Aifred Health via Twitter.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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