Changing the Way We See the World and Transforming the Way We See Disease

Elucid Labs is one of Waterloo region’s fastest growing medtech companies and they are changing the way we see disease, literally. Their AI dermatology assistant (AIDA™) is an AI powered computational imaging device that has transformed the detection and early diagnosis of skin cancer and other diseases.

August 15, 2018

Elucid Labs is one of Waterloo region’s fastest growing medtech companies and they are changing the way we see disease, literally.

Their AI dermatology assistant (AIDA™) is an AI powered computational imaging device that has transformed the detection and early diagnosis of skin cancer and other diseases - providing non invasive testing and clinical decision support that reduces the number of unnecessary tests and biopsies.

“We want machines and humans to work together for improved performance,” says co-founder Dr. Farnoud Kazemzadeh. “The revolutionary technology enables unique AI-powered deep tissue analysis allowing the physicians to ‘see’ below the surface of the skin and detects skin cancer without performing a biopsy - making it a game changer for point-of-care impact assessment.”

Their Story

As an astrophysicist, Farnoud studied the stars and focused on how he could make an impact globally as a scientist. His expertise in optics and photonics was a natural stepping stone into biomedical imaging. Inspired by the gaps in the medical system, Farnoud began looking into better ways to detect skin cancer. “The instances of skin cancer are on the rise worldwide,” says Farnoud. “Skin cancer instances worldwide are actually greater than the other most frequent cancers combined.  But access to specialist care depends on where you are located. In some cases, you may be waiting a year to see a specialist and that may be too long of a wait.”

In May of 2017, Farnoud pulled together an interdisciplinary team that includes respected Ph.Ds Alexander Wong and Iman Khodadad. Together, they formed Elucid Labs. Using an instrument that had originally been designed for astronomy, they built their first device and began testing.

Shortly after, they received the AC JumpStart seed funding grant and started receiving mentorship from the Accelerator Centre team.

“The AC has been great to us. The funding and mentorship have been instrumental in helping us to build Elucid into the company it is today. It's always nice to have those checks and balances with the mentors. Every time we go to the AC we learn something new.”

A chat with Farnoud:

What are your goals with Elucid Labs?

With many people waiting too long for specialist care, our goal is to bring lab-grade testing as well as tertiary and secondary specialist care, to the primary care level so patients can receive accurate diagnoses and start getting the treatment they need as soon as possible.

What are some of your challenges working in a highly regulated space?

The space we operate in is highly regulated for good reasons, healthcare isn’t improved by building an app. Dealing with the FDA or Health Canada and the stacks of paperwork, takes a lot of effort, but it is a necessary step to demonstrate the clinical efficacy of a medical device. While it can be a challenge, the function is absolutely necessary and we are happy to take part in the process.

As a founder, how do you keep yourself motivated?

What motivates me is being able to somehow make a positive difference in this world, however small. Myself and my co-founder have decided that building Elucid was how we could do that. Personally, my family is a great motivation as I’d like to be able to create a better world for them.  

Do you have mentors who helped you to succeed and get where you are today?

Absolutely, I have different mentors for different areas of my life. I think it is important to have people around you who support you and who you can relate to and at times rely upon. Although my wife is not my mentor, she’s my best friend and her support is incredibly important. On the business side, whether it is mentors at work, through the AC, or peer mentors, it is good to have people around you who have walked the path before you and can support you along the way.

Will you be attending any conferences in the next year?

The next year is going to be a very exciting year for Elucid. We are going to conferences in Ireland, China, Australia, and a few in the US. It’s going to be a great showcase of our technology and an opportunity to bring more partners on board.

What is the future of Elucid Labs?

We're on a good track to be on the US market in six months with our first version of the product. In the next year, we will be increasing our customer base and adding more features and building on the AI technology. We are also growing the company and are always on the hunt for capable and hard-working individuals who share our vision in trying to change the world for the better. We are projecting to double the size of the team by the end of next year. By that time we will be moving into our own space with dedicated manufacturing and lab facilities in Waterloo. We want to stay in Waterloo because exciting things are happening in tech and AI here and we want to be a part of that. As well, we would want to stay close to the world-class talent at the University of Waterloo as well as the community who supports us. In five years, I can see us expand beyond the application of dermatology into further reaching medical uses, improving our healthcare systems. We will always be thinking about how our academic research can impact mankind and make a difference in the world.

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