Japanese startup LPIXEL uses AI to make real change in the life sciences
How support and mentorship from the Google for Startups Accelerator: Japan program helped this founder support and scale his team.
Some founders can visualize their own success—literally. Yuki Shimahara studied genetics and bioinformatics in college, followed by imaging in graduate school at the University of Tokyo. Inspired by his collaborative research in the field of image analysis, he founded LPIXEL, a startup building medical image diagnostic support technologies. Powered by AI, LPIXEL aggregates data from the medical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural sectors to develop image analysis technologies specifically focused on the life science space. “We believe that the 21st century is the era of engineering life sciences,” says Yuki.
Yuki was thrilled with the company’s rapid growth, but when the company surpassed 60 employees, he realized that he needed to learn how to better manage a diverse team of engineers, researchers, biologists, information specialists, medical experts and business operations teams. So he enrolled in Google for Startups Accelerator in Japan in early 2020—just ahead of the outbreak of COVID-19. "If I had to describe my experience at the Google for Startups Accelerator in one phrase, I would say Google teams truly put themselves in the startup's shoes,” says Yuki. “There were a lot of one-on-ones where I received practical and helpful feedback. It was a welcoming, warm program where we worked with Google mentors from many different subject matters and industries."
Despite the second half of the program being conducted online due to COVID-19, Yuki and the LPIXEL team achieved many of the goals they set out to achieve through the Accelerator. One particularly impactful session focused on Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). While Yuki had already implemented OKRs at LPIXEL, the team struggled to make them work. Through 1:1 Google mentoring, Yuki realized that the most important part of creating OKRs is having deep conversations and seeing eye-to-eye with each employee. This breakthrough immediately improved the quality of communication within LPIXEL as the team increased the number of interactions, took advantage of the fact that they are online to be more creative, and changed the leadership team’s attitude towards people management.
After they graduated from the Google for Startups Accelerator, LPIXEL launched their new product EIRL Chest Nodule in August 2020—despite the ongoing pandemic. They also announced the product renewal on their drug discovery AI solution IMACEL in November.
LPIXEL’s tech is fueled by Google products, especially TensorFlow and Google Cloud. The team uses TensorFlow to power their medical diagnostic support AI by machine learning medical images, as well as to analyze image data needed for drug discovery. “Our vision is to have medical diagnostic support AI permeate the world and make it an indispensable infrastructure. I would like to show that there are new methods that can be used to discover new drugs by using AI, and make it possible to develop drugs in faster and cheaper ways. We want to make it possible for all people to receive the best medical care in the world, wherever and whenever they are.”