Background and Context
Founded in 2014, Fluid AI, formerly known as NERV, is a Kitchener-based technology company that aims empowers healthcare providers with data-driven solutions that improve patient outcomes. Fluid AI’s Origin real-time, AI-based monitoring detects post-operative leaks and greatly reduces risks and costs of managing post-operative infections.
Q&A with co-founder Youssef Helwa
Why did you find Fluid AI?
The need for engineering solutions in the healthcare industry became clear to me at the age of 15. I learned, from my mother – a surgeon – about the difficulties surgeons face monitoring post-operative complications due to the gap in today’s standard of care. When and if symptoms show up due to a complication, like an infection, healthcare practitioners play a game of elimination to try to determine exactly what is going on, and it can sometimes take a few days to figure out. Unfortunately, due to the delay in detecting complications, or missing them altogether, we end up losing some patients, while others that survive have a prolonged hospital stay.
I could see that a more proactive approach to monitoring patients post-op was important. At the University of Waterloo, I met Amr Abdelgawad in 2011,and we founded FluidAI Medical while we were getting our undergraduate nanotechnology engineering degree. Our goal was to develop solutions to detect post-op complications at their onset, with an initial focus on post-operative leaks, a complication that can arise after general and gastrointestinal surgeries.
How did HAX progress your startup?
HAX has been key to our growth as a startup. We are proud to have been a HAX portfolio company since 2018. Soon after FluidAI joined HAX, we went through a pivot that was essential for the company’s growth and development. The HAX team was supportive during the transitional phase and made the decision to pivot much easier for the management team. Knowing that we had HAX backing up our decision, the company transitioned from the first solution that it had developed, a permanent implantable sensor to monitor for anastomotic leaks, to an external sensor that augments catheters and wound drains to monitor for post-operative leaks.
The HAX team initially supported us heavily on the product development front by providing their expertise and guidance on industrial design and prototyping to help us get to our first iteration of the product. Getting to the first iteration was crucial for the company to initiate animal trials. The data obtained from animal trials started to show the feasibility of our solution and the value that we can bring to healthcare providers through early detection of post-operative leaks. The progress at HAX allowed us to raise our pre-seed round in 2019, grow the team, and hit further milestones as a company.
We are going to enable an entirely new future of patient monitoring.
How are you thinking about your scientific impact?
By harnessing the power of AI and nanotechnology to collect patient-specific data, FluidAI will develop and grow banks of datasets on various medical indications. By developing solutions that can analyze patient-specific biomarkers, FluidAI will transform the future of patient care. The data that we have already collected never existed before, and we’re only getting started.
What is the future of Fluid AI?
FluidAI sees itself as a pioneer in the field of patient monitoring. We want to re-imagine care by empowering healthcare providers with data-driven solutions that can improve patient outcomes. Today, we are focused on general and gastrointestinal surgeries and one particular indication – post-operative leaks. However, the opportunities are endless for us with the vision that we have as a company. We plan to build on the solid foundation that consists of a strong technical, clinical, and market understanding to tackle the next set of indications and solutions. We are going to enable an entirely new future of patient monitoring.