Medical AI startup secures $1.1 million government grant, to develop Alzheimer’s diagnosis tool with CSIRO
Friday, September 21, 2018/
Medical artificial intelligence startup Maxwell Plus has secured $1.1 million in funding through the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRCP) grant scheme, to develop and commercialise technology for identifying early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
The startup will be leading the project, working in collaboration with the CSIRO, radiology specialist I-MED and Melbourne-based health, education and research centre Austin Health.
The project combines Maxwell Plus’s AI platform, which collates an overall view of a patient’s health, with brain imaging tools developed by CSIRO to assess image data quickly for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, or to identify patients at high risk.
The participants are working on further development, commercialisation and regulatory approvals for the product, with plans to bring it to market after three years.
Maxwell Plus founder and chief Elliot Smith tell StartupSmart the funding will be used to “really robustly validate” the AI platform, and to work on trials, development and integrating new tools into the product.
Having previously worked as an engineer in the mining industry, Smith says he was drawn to use his skills to make more of a lasting difference.
He studied for a PhD in biomedical engineering, and founded Maxwell Plus to “find a way to apply some of this knowledge to healthcare … a real area that’s of interest to me”, he says.
Securing the CRCP grant is set to propel Maxwell Plus to the next level as a business — but it’s not all about the money, Smith says.
This grant in particular requires projects to include an SME or startup participant, a large industry partner and a research partner.
It means creating “strong partnerships between us and other participants … that will last much longer than this project”, says Smith.
It’s just one example of government incentives “encouraging startups and providing them with an avenue to integrate and grow and become bigger than they would be on their own, which I think has been really positive”, he says.
Equally, the grant program is not restricted to the health sector — it’s about getting research-focused startups together with commercialisation players, and forging relationships in their industries.
“One of the key trackers is about taking research and feeding it into a commercial team, getting it out of a lab and into a product,” explains Smith.
Througout the grant application process, one of the biggest advantages Maxwell Plus had, Smith says, was “choosing a great research partner in CSIRO”.
While the grant was not a “traditional scientific grant”, the people reviewing the application came from that grant-writing background, Smith says. So having someone who “knows the language and knows how to work through them” was a significant benefit.
Partnerships can be important here, and startups should focus on “finding the right person who brings expertise”.
“[There are] people who are in this space who can talk this language and add to the credibility,” says Smith.
Equally, Smith says the government has set up various bodies, focused on different areas, for businesses to submit their grant applications to for review, before they submit them for real.
“You can get some feedback from them, and they will help you tailor it to the grant scheme,” he says.
Contacting with a body like this “really helped us refine what is essentially a pitch for the panel that would be reviewing the grants when the time came,” Smith says.
“Reach out to those groups, they can make a world of difference,” he adds.