H|T: The Healthtech Times – This DeepMind spin-off wants to cut drug discovery times in half

Clinia’s Montréal team.
Plus: Clinia secures $10 million and partnership with Telus Health.

The Healthtech Times is a weekly newsletter covering healthtech news from Canada and around the globe.

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Clinia secures Series A funding, partnership with Telus Health to deploy its search tech

For Montréal-based Clinia, which has spent the past few years ensuring its artificial intelligence-powered health-search infrastructure is “enterprise-grade,” the $10 million deal gives the healthtech startup fresh capital from Telus Ventures, a new customer in Telus Health, and a strong distribution network.

In an interview with BetaKit, Clinia co-founder and CEO Simon Bédard said that Telus’ approval grants the company’s tech the endorsement it needs to gain the trust of other large healthcare organizations in the United States (US)—and a better avenue for selling to them.



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Portable ICU maker Thornhill strikes landmark $356-million U.S. defence supply deal

A Toronto maker of portable intensive-care units has signed one of the biggest contracts in years between a small Canadian supplier and the US Department of Defense.

Thornhill will provide up to $356-million USD of its portable, lightweight MADM anesthetic systems and MOVES SLC life-support-system equipment to the US military.

It is one of the biggest US defence contracts for a Canadian SME or woman-led business in at least the past decade, said Susannah Denovan Fortier, a spokeswoman for Canadian Commercial Corp. 

(The Globe and Mail)

BenchSci trims headcount citing generative AI, economic conditions 

Toronto-based artificial intelligence and biomedical startup BenchSci has reduced its headcount as the startup looks to adapt to the impact of generative AI in the field of drug discovery.

BenchSci cited several reasons behind its workforce reduction, including “shifts in the economic environment, operational efficiencies, and adaptation to technological advancements,” specifically citing generative AI.

“We believe that generative AI will continue to reshape preclinical [research and development] and have a substantial positive impact on our customers,” BenchSci said in its LinkedIn post. 


DeepMind spin-off aims to halve drug discovery times following Big Pharma deals

Demis Hassabis, who co-founded Google’s AI unit and also leads the drugs offshoot Isomorphic Labs, told the Financial Times that its goal was to reduce the discovery stage — when potential drugs are identified before clinical trials — from the average of five years to two. “I think that would be success for us and be very meaningful,” he said.

Hassabis stated the goal days after announcing Isomorphic Lab’s first two pharmaceutical partnerships with Eli Lilly and Novartis, which came to a combined value of up to $3bn, in deals set to transform the finances of the unprofitable group.

(Financial Times)

Danielle Gifford on expanding Canada’s investor funnel

Early-stage investing is fraught with steep risks and a long, uncertain path to returns, but those facts shouldn’t necessarily deter new entrants, according to Danielle Gifford, former executive director at Movement51.

“What people don’t realize is that early-stage investing is very much a viable asset class,” Gifford said in a sit-down interview with BetaKit at SAAS NORTH 2023.


Boston Scientific acquires urology company Axonics for $3.7 billion

Boston Scientific said it will buy Axonics, a device company treating urinary and bowel disorders, on Monday. The deal is worth $3.7 billion.

It’s the first billion-dollar medical device deal of 2024 — a rare occurrence in 2023, which saw just a handful of medtech acquisitions reaching the billion threshold. 


CES 2024: Mark Cuban, Glen Tullman sound off on building new models of care for consumers and AI’s impact

Amid all this hype, entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban believes AI will be transformative for healthcare.

“There are two types of companies in the world — those who are great at AI and everyone else and either you know how to use it to your advantage or you’re in trouble,” he said during a digital health panel at CES on Thursday.

(Fierce Healthcare)

Solon Angel explains which industries will be dominated first by AI

The influence of AI in our day-to-day activities is becoming more apparent. For Solon Angel, founder of MindBridge, we’re living in “a bit of an Internet moment.”

When it comes to industries with existing infrastructure, standards, and regulations, businesses can, as Angel puts it, “do a bit of judo.” This means using the weight of the opponent to your advantage, and focus on a very narrow entry point to improve existing processes. 


Suicide prevention telehealth provider Vita Health receives $22.5M

Connecticut-based suicide prevention telehealth platform Vita Health has secured $22.5 million in Series A funding. 

Vita Health connects telehealth providers with youth and adults contemplating suicide. The platform also provides teletherapy and psychiatry services for individuals with behavioral health conditions.  

The funding will support the mental health company’s expansion.


Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ tech now works with employee badges

Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology is coming to a hospital setting.

The retail giant announced the launch of “badge pay,” which will bring its payment technology that allows skipping the cashier line, to employee badges. 

The badge is linked to the employee’s payroll deduct account, allowing them to pay for food and drinks around the clock, even after the hospital’s cafeteria is closed.


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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