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JLABS: Meet our Resident; James Hare


Since JLABS @ Shanghai opened on July 27, 2019, the state-of-the-art 4,400 square-meter facility has been home to some of the most exciting life science start-ups in the world. In this series, we share with you some of the ways in which these start-ups aim to shake up the healthcare industry.

自从JLABS @ 上海于2019年7月27日正式启用以来,这一占地4400平米的先进园区便汇聚了来自全世界的最令人激动的生命科学初创企业。在这一系列中,我们将与您分享这些初创企业如何变革医疗产业的故事。

Introducing Us2.ai


Us2.ai is a fast-growing medtech business that concentrates on using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning with the aim to automate the fight against cardiovascular disease.


The Problem[1] The Solution
Cardiovascular disease remains the top cause of death for men and women globally. Although early detection is key to reducing the mortality rates, at present, echocardiography – the most widely used tool for detection – is slow, expensive and an error-prone manual process that can only be completed by trained specialists. This means that not nearly enough cases of heart disease are being caught early. Us2.ai has developed a machine learning platform to transform the manual procedure of measuring and interpreting echocardiograms into a 60-second, one-click process that can be used even by general practitioners. They are also developing disease prediction and prognosis tools for cardiovascular ultrasound, as well as a federated learning platform connecting large stores of image data around the world.



We sat down with James Hare, co-founder and CEO of Us2.ai, to learn more about what inspired him to found the company and how he feels Us2.ai is differentiating itself from its competitors.

我们和Us2.ai的联合创始人兼CEO James Hare聊了聊,也进一步了解了是什么启发他创立公司,以及Us2.ai和其他公司的不同之处。

So, James, how and why did you decide to found Us2.ai?


I was inspired for personal reasons. I had just retired when I received an abnormal heart reading during a check-up. After the alarm sounded, I was quickly ushered off to get an ultra-sound and sought second opinions. However, what I thought was going to be a regular, straightforward procedure was in fact very confusing after receiving two contradictory sets of results from different doctors.


As my partner is a cardiologist, I was able to go into the backrooms of the hospital and see the doctors working with the results behind-the-scenes. It was then that I realized that this was an exceedingly slow and manual process, and not nearly as straightforward as I had originally envisaged. There and then, it struck me that this could be automated – and it was this insight that was the genesis of Us2.ai!


That’s an inspiring story. Where do you see Us2.ai going next?


Well, our moonshot vision is to give everyone control of imaging their own heart. Right now, across the world, there’s a huge backlog of people waiting for echocardiograms. For example, even in a developed country like the UK, the waiting list is frequently the longest of all diagnostic tests and can last months[2]. At present, doctors can’t follow their own medical guidelines due to lack of capacity. But Us2.ai aims to change this.


The next generation of ultrasound machines is very mobile – they're like a probe you can plug into a phone or device to read your heart. However, the more accessible this technology becomes, the more important it is to understand and process the data collected correctly. That’s where Us2.ai steps in. We use AI to measure and annotate the ultrasound images of the heart, with the aim to make the process more efficient for cardiologists, all while giving ordinary people the ability to see and understand what’s going on with their own heart.


Working with Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS has opened new doors for us and allowed us to look beyond our current scope. Together, we’re looking at how we can expand the functionality of Us2.ai with the aim to support the fight against other diseases too.


What were some of the early challenges Us2.ai faced?


Well, the two main challenges we faced were talent and funding. AI talent is hard to find – they're like rock stars compared to us mere mortals! Fortunately, we started in partnership with the Singaporean Government, which gave us access to premier research institutes where we could collaborate with experts while building our original team.


As for funding, we were very lucky to quickly attract the strong support of two amazing leads, Sequoia and EDBI. Both firms realized Us2.ai offered valuable tools not only for the diagnostics market, but also for those who want to do research on echocardiograms, since pharmaceutical trials generally require echocardiograms.


You’re a serial entrepreneur both in Silicon Valley and Europe, but Us2.ai was the first company you set up in Asia. What is unique about starting a company in this region?


Founding a company like Us2.ai in Asia has been a fascinating experience. In Asia, there seems to be this misconception that heart disease is a predominantly Western problem associated with obesity, but actually, Asia has the fastest acceleration of cardiovascular disease in the world[3]. So, there’s a huge opportunity to really make a difference here.


More generally though, I love building companies in Asia because there’s just so much support – it's really remarkable. Starting in Singapore was great and then moving to Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS has been a game-changer. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS, we’ve been introduced to so many people in Mainland China, and I never cease to be amazed at the no-nonsense, entrepreneurial spirit of everyone I meet. It really reminds me of Silicon Valley in the early 90s. There’s such drive and determination and a wonderful feeling that, with the right team and the right software, anything is possible!


Lastly, any parting advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs?


Certainly! I love entrepreneurship, but we should not forget that most start-ups fail. Therefore, as a leader, from my perspective your No.1 priority should be to reduce the risk of failure. You always want to be looking for risk reduction methods and opportunities. In fact, that’s why we entered into JLABS @ Shanghai.

当然!我热爱创业,但我们不能忘记大多数初创企业都以失败告终。因此,我认为作为领导者,你的首要任务就是降低失败的风险。你应该持续寻找减少风险的方法和机会。其实,这也是为什么我们加入了JLABS @ 上海的原因

Programs like this provide you with a soft place to land when entering a big commercial market. Through them, we’ve gained access to a fantastic network of people not just in China, but worldwide, who have all faced similar challenges and to whom you can reach out whenever you need help. I would seriously recommend any fresh entrepreneurs leverage organizations like Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS in order to help minimize their risks while maximizing opportunity.


[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)

[2] https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/06/DWTA-Report-May-14.pdf

[3] https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ehf2.12036#references-section