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Pitt Bioengineering Graduate Students Take Their “Smarter Cardiac Triage” Technology to the Rice Business Plan Competition

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2019) … More than 400 student startups applied to the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition, and only 42 teams were selected from the world’s top institutions to compete for over $1,500,000 in prizes. Among this elite group of teams will be Heart I/O, a digital diagnostics startup led by University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering graduate students Utkars Jain and Adam Butchy. Their “smarter cardiac triage” technology uses artificial intelligence to detect problems with a patient’s heart more quickly and accurately at a fraction of the cost of current technology.

The Heart I/O team includes four co-founders: Mr. Jain, a bioengineering graduate student and the chief executive officer; Mr. Butchy, a bioengineering graduate student and the chief strategy officer; Michael Leasure, a Pitt School of Business alumnus and the chief operating officer; and Nick Flanigan, a business student at Carnegie Mellon University and the chief technology officer. 

“When an individual reports to the hospital with chest pain, they enter triage, which determines treatment based on the severity of presented symptoms,” explained Butchy. “Using artificial intelligence to read an electrocardiogram (ECG) signal, our technology will more efficiently determine if the patient is experiencing a serious cardiac event in a mere 10 seconds - a vast improvement from the current process, which can take 8-72 hours for a diagnosis.”

The Heart I/O technology feeds ECG signals to an artificial intelligence model, which takes the delivered data, learns from it, and determines the most efficient pattern recognition based on what it has learned. In time, the computer trains itself on how to diagnose cardiac events from an ECG. Their inexpensive and cloud-based tool will help emergency providers rapidly and effectively sort patients that need further diagnostic testing from those who can be safely discharged.

“Heart I/O is the result of a class project during my undergraduate studies at Pitt,” said Jain. “ECGs are one of the first tests that patients reporting with chest pain receive, and I thought that if I could equip ECGs with the computational power of artificial intelligence, I could improve the accuracy of diagnoses.”

Jain’s grandfather, who passed away from the misdiagnosis of a cardiac event, was the inspiration for this project.  

“When my grandfather reported to the hospital with chest pain, physicians assumed it was a heart attack and prescribed blood thinners,” explained Jain. “This caused an ulcer to burst, and he died almost instantly. If they had more information about whether or not he was actually experiencing a cardiac event, it might have saved his life.”

The team tested their technology by feeding it a collection of ECG data to see if the computational results matched the actual diagnosis. Based on their studies, their tool is currently 95-97 percent accurate.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, which also makes it one of the most costly,” said Butchy. “Not only will our tool help save lives, but it will also save money for patients and insurance providers.”

Before heading to the Rice Business Plan competition, the Heart I/O team will participate in the Innovation Institute’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an event that awards $100,000 in cash prizes to Pitt student innovations with the goal of helping teams discover how to take their idea to the next level towards startup creation. The team plans to continue developing their technology and raising money with the hope of eventually moving their tool toward commercialization. 


Acknowledgement: Heart I/O would like to thank all the great minds and leaders at the Innovation Institute. In particular, Babs Carryer for her endless enthusiasm, support, and guidance; Joanna Sutton for being an early sounding board, really refining a lot of our ideas to what they are today; Philip Marzolf for all his work with us on our Rice application, Don Morrison for his feedback on revenue models and commercialization; Ketaki Desai for her incredible insight into the healthcare market; and Jess Malandro for all the work she does behind the scenes. 

In addition, Heart I/O has had the support of many University of Pittsburgh students who have contributed their time, effort, and passion to making Heart I/O into a reality. In particular, Katherine Poduska, a senior Bioengineering student; Mazen Megahed, a sophomore Mechanical engineering student; and Adam Duca, a junior in Rehabilitation Science and Assistive Technology. 

Lastly, Heart I/O would like to thank, Matt Kesinger, John Cordier, and Lou Camerlengo for their endless patience with revisions, guidance, and support; John Marous, a great mentor who is helping us through the commercialization process; and Dr. Veronica Covalesky and Dr. Emerson Liu,  great physicians helping us with clinical studies and overall medical knowledge.

Contact: Leah Russell