Brazilian startup LAURA announced on Thursday that it raised BRL 10 million in a round led by the American fund GAA Investments. With the funds, the health tech startup wants to consolidate its presence in the Brazilian market, expand in Latin America (starting with Peru and Colombia), and further develop Laura Robot, its proprietary AI technology focused on health care.
Startups are usually born to solve a pain point. In this case, LAURA’s story is also a legacy for its co-founder Jacson Fressatto‘s daughter, Laura, who underwent several procedures in a hospital in Southern Brazil after birth. Due to a communication failure of the health team during the night, the nurses only found out in the early hours of the morning that two of the five children in the ICU were in sepsis (a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues). Laura passed away.
“This kind of scenario LAURA (Artificial Intelligence) ends immediately without any involvement of additional resources or training of people,” says Fressatto in an interview with LABS.
Fressatto founded the startup five years ago, alongside the scientist Cristian Rocha (today LAURA”s CEO) and the doctor Hugo Morales (the startup‘s current Chief Medical Officer), to solve this kind of problem. “Health is a timeline; what you do today will have an impact tomorrow. This is true for the patient inside the hospital, where he can get worse and die within hours, and also for patients outside hospitals, who start to show symptoms and may not get proper treatment in time,” Rocha said.
LAURA”s AI platform helps doctors and nurses identify those patients most at risk. In September 2016, Laura Robot was implemented at Hospital Nossa Senhora das Graças in Curitiba, and after that, in 40 more institutions in Brazil. To date, LAURA has performed 10.7 million attendances, reduced hospitals’ mortality rate by 25%, on average, and evaluated 24,000 people, according to the startup itself.
“We provide solutions to monitor the patient’s entire journey, not only inside the hospital. If he starts presenting symptoms, he can be triaged through LAURA’s platform and directed to the appropriate health service,” explains Rocha. For hospitals, health professionals, health plans, and some health departments, the startup offers a decision support system.
“We provide solutions to monitor the patient’s entire journey, not only inside the hospital. If he starts presenting symptoms, he can be triaged through LAURA’s platform and led to the appropriate health service,” explains Rocha. For hospitals, health professionals, health plans, and health departments, the startup offers a decision support system. “As we are a platform, if we want to, we can pivot the business model for health plans and charge per life. It is possible to do that because we cover the patient’s entire journey,” recalls Morales.
The company projects a 100% growth in the number of contracts in 2021 and, supported by investments from the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), wants to validate its technology in Latin America.
Another part of the new investment will go for research. The founders believe that technology companies produce knowledge. So, now, Morales is focused on a more robust scientific validation for its AI technology, with publications in specialized international journals in the sector. He will present LAURA at an AI symposium to be held in the Bermuda Islands later this year. The startup was the Latin American one selected to participate in the event.
“I participate in an IDB AI initiative to make a social impact ethically. We have a complete journey, which we can fragment inside and outside the hospital. Outside the hospital, we call it Laura Care. This implementation in the health departments of Brazil was encouraged and sponsored by the IDB. This required us to undergo a very large audit, both in ethical and legal issues,” says the CMO.
Also with IDB support, LAURA will take its first international steps in Peru. The startup is implementing its AI system in two national hospitals in Lima.
Now, the startup wants to grow just over three times in revenues by the end of the year. Last year, LAURA earned BRL 2 million. For 2021, the startup expects to exceed BRL 7 million in revenues. In the last 12 months, LAURA has made 400,000 digital appointments. “We grew 220% amid the pandemic; our product was ready to meet the market when COVID-19 arrived,” adds Fressatto.