In a world where companies toss the term ‘artificial intelligence’ around whenever the office intern figures out how to get a spreadsheet pie chart to update automatically, it’s nice to see a company utilizing actual AI and machine learning in a manner that involves actual intelligence and learning.
Diagnos (ADK.V) is a health tech deal that scans your eye for evidence of health issues, using AI to deliver fast, inexpensive detection that can be used to scan an entire population.
Diagnos isn’t a new company – in fact, it’s not even necessarily new tech. ADK’s Computer-Assisted Retina Analysis system (CARA) grew out of publicly available research back in 2005, centered on methods of determining illnesses by examining indicators found in the eyes.
Over the last 15 years, they’ve tested and trialed their application of the technology, earned certification from the US FDA, Health Canada, and their European equivalent, built out their databases to bring more accurate results, added more conditions to be screened for, added partner organizations in 16 countries, and have scanned over a quarter million patients so far.
The kicker here is how the tech can be used for multiple conditions, in far flung places where specialists may be in short supply.
While early 2020 saw a focus on diabetes screening, the emergence of COVID-19 saw potential for detection of that condition in much the same way, and more recently the company has announced utilization for stroke detection, a massive market with no shortage of need.
More often than not, strokes aren’t seen coming until it’s too late, so the ability to note the conditions that could lead to a stroke with a quick scan of a retina is a big deal.
At a time when entire nations are asking people to stay home to limit COVID exposure, the ability to utilize tech remotely, through telemedicine, is a massive win/win.
Diagnos in Colombia, July 2020:
“The CTMC was founded and launched in 2005 aiming to foster a telemedicine environment, e-health service in order to overcome the difficulties of having access to health care. Today we seize the opportunity hand to hand with Diagnos to unburden the heavy costs of blindness caused by diabetes at the time thousands of patients will have access to a real-time eye analysis,” said Dr. Jorge Alberto Velez B., director and founder of the CTMC.
Serving developing countries as a means of improving general community health outcomes is great, but in richer locations, the same services can bring in a strong revenue stream.
Diagnos in California, September 2020:
Dr. Prasad, diabetes specialist, president and medical director of Chaparral Medical Group, stated: “We are pleased to re-engage with Diagnos for another three years, validating the mutually beneficial relationship between our two companies. With a retinal scan, we can identify cases of diabetes by having an eye exam 10 years before the complications arise. And if detected early, we can treat it and reduce the incidence of blindness. With the computer-assisted retinal analysis (CARA) platform, Diagnos is also playing a key role in our ‘diabetic champion program.’ With it, we can quickly screen our large community of diabetic patients for any signs of diabetic retinopathy.”
Working with optical retail chains allows Diagnos to scale quickly in a new country.
Diagnos in Mexico, October 2020:
Diagnos Inc. has signed a contract with Devlyn Grupo, an important optical retailer with over 900 stores in Mexico and Guatemala. Devlyn will be testing the CARA (computer-assisted retina analysis) artificial intelligence technology for diabetic retinopathy screening at select optical retail locations. A rollout to more stores may happen in early 2021, if testing is conclusive.
Diagnos is now expanding through the Middle East with local partners, bringing yet more revenue potential. January 2021:
Diagnos Inc. has opened five screening clinics at various locations of Magrabi Hospital & Centers located in Riyadh, with the help of its Saudi business partner, Kanhoor Medical Co.
Magrabi is one of the largest eye-care networks in the world, providing eye care to more than one million patients and performing more than 100,000 sight-preserving surgeries annually. Magrabi operates in 30 locations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saltanat of Oman, Yemen and Egypt.
In Canada, hospitals are happy to expand Diagnos’ scanning to include ophthalmology conditions.
Quebec, January 2021.
Diagnos Inc. has signed a three-year framework partnership agreement with the CHUM (Center Hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal/University of Montreal Hospital Centre) on AI (artificial intelligence) projects applied to the early detection of various retinal diseases.
The various algorithms developed by Diagnos will be used to analyze changes in retinal microcirculation and their impacts on the prevention of complications of cardiovascular disease. This agreement also supports the company’s project to screen diabetic retinopathy with automatic detection assisted by artificial intelligence, launched in June, 2018.
While COVID lockdowns paused a lot of Diagnos’ global trials initially, the ability to use the tech as telemedicine rather than needing an expensive capital outlay for local equipment, allowed nations to jump back into the process quickly, and even provided a first hand view of how effective the tech may be logistically going forward.
It’s a pure driven technology approach without replacing the most important factor, the human factor, where specialists follow up with patients using the telemedicine digital tool. We’re adopting this new technology to positively impact the health market in Panama, and we’re doing it with Diagnos,” said Katherine Prieto, director of operations from CliniLab Panama.
Mobile labs in Saudi Arabia!
“For almost three years, Enayah has been using Diagnos’s AI-based CARA platform successfully to screen thousands of diabetic patients for diabetic retinopathy with an early detection test. By using Diagnos’s telemedicine solution, we have been able to identify patients needing care early so their vision can be saved. As part of our combating blindness program, we are extremely pleased to extend this service and add it to other tests in our fleet of vans of mobile smart eye clinics,” said Dr. Salman Abdullah Al-Mutairi, executive director of Enayah Charitable Association and secretary general of the council of private association in the Saudi Arabia.
In an effort to increase its footprint and accelerate its growth, Diagnos has decided to work with organizations that are active in similar markets. The formalization of this strategic partnership with Labtician will have the net effect of allowing access to new customers across Canada.
Though the company has rapidly expanded its deal flow, the usual timeline on such deals is to run a short test period, to prove out the tech with locals, which is them followed by wider implementation. Diagnos has hard a rough time on that front due to the COVID lockdowns of 2020, which focused medical practitioners and hospitals on emergency care. A lot of the programs mentioned above paused, some for long periods, out of necessity. Folks just weren’t doing a lot of eye exams during COVID lockdowns with runaway infection rates.
That’s meant, rather than nearing profitability as one might expect, the company has held at a flat $500k per quarter net loss, which is similar to what the company experienced a year earlier.
But the number of those programs that have since resumed, and even accelerated as telemedicine goes through a boom, is impressive. As we near the second half of 2021, a lot of new deals and resuming deals are kicking in, picking up speed, and expanding Diagnos’ product offerings and detectable conditions.
Stock-wise, ADK went on a run in October as several partners resumed their programs, but has stayed fairly static since. At a $34 million current valuation, that means potential investors can still get on board before Joe Public figures out this is a deal.
Look, I’m a diabetic. Once a year I’m supposed to get an optometrist appointment and go through an extensive eye exam, which sometimes involves having your vision blurred for several hours. At the end, I usually hear the same “you’re getting old, get some dollar store readers” line, which doesn’t compel me to rush back.
But I should. It’s important. Retinal neuropathy can hit hard and fast, and there have been times when my eyes have turned blood red after air travel or a bender, which suggests I need to be careful.
And if it detected signs of hypertension or stroke at the same time, we’re not just talking about a technology I *could* use, but one that I’d actively seek out.
And invest in.
— Chris Parry
FULL DISCLOSURE: Diagnos is an Equity.Guru marketing client, and I’ll be looking to buy on any dips.