The Munich startup Deepc brings together artificial intelligence (AI) and healthcare. With AI, the health startup can automatically highlight suspicious findings in medical data and thereby support doctors. An interview.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
We are Franz Pfister (32, Physician, MBA, Data Scientist), Julia Moosbauer (25, Data Scientist), Paul Mayer (33, Software Engineer) and Michael Meyerhoff (56, long-time executive in healthcare). Our passion for artificial intelligence and health care and the conviction that we can sustainably improve the healthcare system with assistance from AI is what brought us together as Deepc.
We like to compare Deepc with a spell check program that highlights anomalies in hundreds of pages of text (such as transposed letters or spelling mistakes). We apply that principle to medical data: Deepc searches through large amounts of medical data for suspicious findings and shows them to the doctor in real time, which allows us to support physicians when making a diagnosis.
Detecting even rare illnesses with Deepc’s AI and a good doctor
During our first use cases, the technology was applied to MRT and CT images of the human brain. We supported radiologists with our AI software when making a diagnosis. Does that sound exciting? It gets even better: Initial development is complete and the prototype is currently being tested at the Hospital Rechts der Isar.
2. But that’s nothing out of the box!
Yes, it absolutely is. Existing AI solutions are isolated applications. They are limited to just a few common diseases (such as multiple sclerosis, brain tumors or strokes). That’s like having spell-check that only recognizes comma mistakes! Deepc takes a generalist approach: The system can recognize all diseases and, in particular, even extremely rare diseases (known as orphan diseases).
3. What are the three main ingredients in your recipe for success?
- Understand the target group: Figure out your target group’s needs with in-depth discussions and lots of interviews
- Use funding options and networks: Use the public funding opportunities, excellent startup network and accelerators and incubators in and near Munich
- The team: A complementary team that fights for its vision together and shares its passion for the product
Will Deepc win the 5-million dollar competition?
4. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: How is business going?
We’re currently preparing our entry into the market and are already working with several pilot customers. We were also recently able to score a major success: During our mission, we were selected as one of four wildcard teams for the highly competitive $5-million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE three years after the official start of the competition.We’re now one of the last 34 teams (out of more than 1,000 initially) from ten countries who are fighting for the five million dollar prize.
5. What does Munich mean to you?
Franz, Julia and Paul grew up in Munich, and Michael has been here for eight years. We love Munich as our hometown, but also appreciate it as the location for our startup. Munich gives us excellent access to the best graduates from the LMU and TUM universities. In particular, Deepc benefits from the proximity to the highly renowned Munich hospitals (including the hospitals Rechts der Isar and Großhadern).
The economic infrastructure in Munich with a focus on tech and medicine gives us an array of opportunities to communicate with others and potential partnerships. At the same time, it also helps us make rapid progress in product development. A creative and flourishing startup scene, strengthened by various funding and accelerator programs in Munich, are worth their weight in gold for any founder.
And is there a more beautiful spot to have a beer after work with your team than in a Munich beer garden?
“AI is only safe when people and AI work as a team”
6. How will your startup become the next unicorn? Or will we be seeing you at an Epic Fail Night soon?
We’re confident that AI can only be used in a successful, safe and advantageous way when people and AI work as a team. This insight and its implementation are one of Deepc’s factors for success: We’re developing a hybrid approach in which doctors and intelligent algorithms work hand-in-hand.
Systematic tasks — as in our case the systematic screening of data — are performed by AI. Complex, unsystematic tasks that require the transfer of thinking, experience and the highest level of expertise are still taken care of by doctors. AI provides security for the doctor and the doctor takes over when AI reaches its limits. So, no question: unicorn!
7. Hiking or beer garden?
Hiking with beer to a cabin.