Gastrointestinal AI developer Docbot nets new CEO, series A funding for clinical trials

Docbot aims to hit the ground running with a Series A cash infusion and a new CEO—and move forward with clinical trials of its real-time artificial intelligence programs for spotting potential cancers during colonoscopy.

As its new chief, the company has tapped Andrew Ritter, former CEO of the lactose intolerance-focused Ritter Pharmaceuticals, which was absorbed by the cancer and infectious disease biotech Qualigen last May. 

At Docbot, Ritter will be in charge of $4 million in new funding from a round led by Khosla Ventures, plus additional backing from Bold Capital Partners, Collaborative Fund and Boutique Venture Partners, which brings the company’s total fundraising to $8.5 million.

Docbot’s previous CEO, co-founder Andrew Ninh, will continue on as the company’s chief strategic officer, focused on business development, strategic partnerships and innovation surrounding its UltivisionAI program for spotting diseases across the entire GI tract.

RELATED: Olympus to roll out colonoscopy AI for spotting lesions, polyps in real time

The company is developing its machine vision algorithms to pick out signs of conditions spanning multiple organs from video recordings—such as detection and classification of potentially cancerous polyps in the colon, as well as evidence of Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal cancer or stomach cancer.

Docbot is also working with Eli Lilly in diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease, with the two publishing a paper late last year in the journal Gastroenterology showing that a trained AI could help automatically identify and predict severe cases of ulcerative colitis.

“We believe our study is the first to demonstrate that artificial neural networks can be trained to predict levels of ulcerative colitis severity from routinely obtained full-length endoscopy videos, rather than curated still images, with high inter-rater agreement to human central readers,” Docbot’s head of AI, James Requa, said at the time, adding that machine reading could help save time and cost in clinical trials for potential treatments.

The latest proceeds will help expand the company’s roster and build up clinical evidence for its AI program as it plans for FDA submissions, Ritter said in a statement. Last year the company said it had enrolled the first participants in a pivotal study for detecting adenomas during live colonoscopies.

RELATED: FDA clears its first plug-in AI video system for spotting polyps during colonoscopy

In April, the FDA cleared its first plug-in AI system for spotting polyps from real-time video during a procedure, with the GI Genius system developed by Cosmo Pharmaceuticals.

Distributed internationally by Medtronic, the program is designed to work with all agency-approved endoscopy video systems, and serve as an automated second observer to help catch precancerous tissues and any smaller, flatter polyps that may slip by unnoticed.