New Investment: Hyfe, AI that runs on any phone to detect and analyze cough

By Fabian Scheugenpflug & Julianne Roseman Published on March 24, 2021

We are excited to be backing Hyfe, a healthcare company that has built a powerful diagnostic tool that can distinguish between different types of coughs.

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A leading cause of death and disability in the world.

Respiratory diseases are leading causes of death and disability in the world. All of the five most common and fatal respiratory diseases affect the body in such a way that the patient is forced to cough. These diseases have high global fatality numbers: COPD with 3M, acute lower respiratory tract infections with roughly 500K, TB with 1.4M, and lung cancer with 1.6M deaths while asthma impacts 335M patients who are currently suffering from it. Looking at the diseases on an individual level, many of them produce a unique cough sound. Nevertheless, these differences are close to impossible to distinguish by ear for two reasons. On one side, a well-trained physician can only rely on personal experience, which is based on a limited number of coughs. On the other side, the cough might differ in such insignificant ways that the difference is not distinguishable by ear alone. Solutions that are either resource-friendly or completely digital are needed. Regardless of the region in the world, early diagnosis and intervention can make the difference between life and death.

Using AI to digitally detect coughs from ambient sound and track them over space and time.

Hyfe is a Cough Detection Algorithm that runs on a smartphone and tracks coughs. Using machine learning algorithms it can detect coughs from ambient sound and track them over space and time. In order to do so, Hyfe is harvesting an enormous amount of data, which enables Hyfe to develop a new category of health monitoring: “acoustic epidemiology”. With this new data, Hyfe can objectively measure a health behavior that was previously measured only subjectively (and therefore subject to recollection, social desirability, and confirmation biases). This approach empowers users, health professionals, and researchers to track acute and chronic conditions over time, both at the individual and - eventually - population levels. The end goal is to improve it to the point where it can distinguish between different types of coughs and become a powerful diagnostic tool.

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The team behind Hyfe has proven in the short time since incorporation that they can scale at incredible speed. The team combines deep industry knowledge, seasoned management experience, a vast network, and a proven track record of building successful companies. The CEO, Joe Brew, spent 15+ years working in public health in the Global South and the co-founders are serial entrepreneurs.

Plug and Play is one of the most active VCs in Silicon Valley, our goal is to fund the teams that are building the defensible businesses of the future. Join our ecosystem today.