Fifth Eye Scores $2.3M for Software to Detect Patient Warning Signs
[Update, 2:02 p.m., see below.] Jen Baird, a serial entrepreneur who has led several Michigan-based healthcare technology startups, is back at it with Fifth Eye, an Ann Arbor, MI-based company developing software that performs analytics on patient data. Investors so far like what they see in the young venture: Fifth Eye has just raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Invest Michigan, the Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center at Western Michigan University, and 33 angel investors.
Fifth Eye’s software is designed to act as an early warning system capable of detecting when a patient might be in serious trouble, based on their electrocardiogram (ECG) data—the bright, squiggly lines bouncing across the screen at a patient’s bedside. The technology alerts medical professionals to impending blood pressure instability, Baird says.
From there, she says doctors could take proactive measures to avoid adverse health events and improve outcomes for patients, thereby (ideally) shortening hospital stays and reducing healthcare costs. Baird says the software would only work on those patients whose ECG data is being monitored—most commonly in emergency rooms, intensive care units, and step-down care units, she adds.
“We take that ECG line and run it through robust analytics,” Baird explains. The process produces a score every two minutes that rates the patient’s stability and potentially enables the early detection of patient distress. “We’re checking to see if the heart is overcompensating. It’s non-invasive, real-time, and continuous,” she says.
When the heart overcompensates for other trouble in the body, the signs are subtle, Baird says, but they have detectable mathematical characteristics, which helps Fifth Eye’s software asses the patient’s condition. The idea for the software came about five years ago at the University of Michigan’s Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care, which received support from university tech transfer programs, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Entrepreneur and Innovation initiative, to advance commercialization.
Fifth Eye licensed the technology from U-M, and the company is now working with development partner Menlo Innovations to refine the software, Baird says. The five-person Fifth Eye team includes three researchers who left the university to become full-time employees to help usher the software to market.
“There is so much research being done in Ann Arbor, sometimes the tricky part is finding it,” says Baird, whose past ventures include Accuri Cytometers, which was acquired by Becton, Dickinson and Company in 2011 for $205 million. The research behind Fifth Eye “was kind of hidden, but I was lucky enough to find the team at the right time, and we immediately gelled. What got me excited about the technology was that it was already working, and clinicians were super excited because its capabilities don’t exist in the market.”
There are competing software products out there to alert doctors to an impending patient crash, but Baird says many of those systems rely on vital sign input—think blood pressure and heart rate—rather than the heart’s electrical signals continuously being monitored by ECG machines, which she says is a more predictive measurement. (At least one of Fifth Eye’s competitors, VitalConnect, also uses ECG data, according to its website.) Because Fifth Eye analyzes ECG data, the software can detect trouble hours before it would show up in a reading of vital signs, she maintains. [This paragraph was updated to clarify how Fifth Eye’s technology works.]
“Vital signs are a late indicator because the body is so good at compensating,” she says. “We’re distilling [the patient’s condition] down to a score that says stable or unstable. We don’t offer a specific diagnosis—we say the body is compensating for something, and it’s really serious. It can be caused by a number of things, like sepsis, pneumonia, or a traumatic brain injury.”
Baird says the technology was validated at U-M hospitals in 2017, although no testing data has been shared publicly. Now, the Fifth Eye team is working on getting the FDA to sign off on the software. Baird expects to submit the software package for regulatory clearance within the next few months and perhaps launch the product as soon as late 2019.
“We’re getting a lot of input from clinicians, who are helping to design the interface and test it,” she says. “The fact that so many busy people are volunteering keeps reinforcing that what we’re doing is making a difference.”
Now, armed with the seed funding, we’ll see whether Fifth Eye has what it takes.