Texas Tech University

Lasa Health Awarded $275K SBIR Phase I Grant From The National Science Foundation

State of Texas and Texas Tech University

September 8, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot providing flare-up support for patients with endometriosis

Lasa Health, a TTU Accelerator graduate and health tech company, has been awarded a $275,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant. This grant marks a significant step towards the development of an AI-powered chatbot designed to provide flare-up support to patients with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain. By harnessing this cutting-edge technology, Lasa Health aims to redefine the management of endometriosis flare-ups and enhance patients' quality of life. Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that impacts nearly 200 million people globally and can significantly impact quality of life. Symptoms can include painful menstruation, painful sex, painful bowel movements and/or urination, chronic pelvic pain, nausea, bloating, and fatigue. Patients experience “flare-ups”, or periods of time where the symptoms become unbearable, and few resources currently exist to support patients during these difficult moments.

Reflecting on her own experience with endometriosis, Margaret Melville, CEO of Lasa Health, shared, "During one endometriosis flare-up, I spent weeks in excruciating pain, nauseous, fatigued, and struggled to function day-to-day. At the emergency room, I was given Ibuprofen and told that I was fine. I felt so hopeless." Her experience seeking care for endometriosis inspired her to start Lasa Health to support other patients who were suffering from overlooked chronic conditions.

Lasa Health has partnered with Guidea, a renowned digital health design agency, as well as expert advisors in endometriosis and chatbot development. Theresa Neil, CEO of Guidea, stated, "We're looking forward to collaborating with Lasa Health on the use of conversational AI to improve the lives of millions of women who are experiencing chronic pain from endometriosis. We believe AI can be leveraged successfully for screening, education, support and ultimately better health outcomes for this population. Congratulations to Lasa Health for pioneering this idea and gaining traction to move it forward."

The conversational chatbot will be trained to answer user's questions, guide the user through pain-reducing exercises such as pelvic floor therapy, and direct the user to appropriate resources. Advisor Ryan Schuetzler, with over a decade of experience in human-chatbot interactions research, noted, “Recent advances in natural language processing with large language models like ChatGPT make it easier than ever to build customized, conversational interactions to help these patients manage their condition.”

Dr. Sallie Sarrel, a prominent pelvic floor therapist and founder of the Endometriosis Summit, shared, "One of the largest issues in endometriosis today is access to the proper care. When that is compounded with the isolation of this disease, it is a disaster for the person with endometriosis. It is amazing to be part of a project that will use emerging technology to break down access barriers and connect our endometriosis community. I am honored to work with Lasa Health.”

“We're excited to work with the NSF and partners to drive desperately needed innovation in the healthcare space!” adds Chris Fortuna, Principal Investigator and CTO of Lasa Health. “We want patients to feel heard, understood, and supported both in a clinical environment and at home.”

About Lasa Health

Lasa Health is an end-to-end engagement platform for patients with chronic health conditions, like endometriosis. Their software integrates into clinician's existing workflows to facilitate provider-patient communication and improve time to diagnosis with embedded AI clinical decision support. Lasa Health's mission is to raise the standard of care for patients who have been historically overlooked. The team is supported by StartUp Health, Loyal VC, Texas Tech University, and Springboard Enterprise. For more information, visit lasahealth.com.

About the National Science Foundation's Small Business Programs

America's Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $2 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America's Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $9.5 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. For more information, visit seedfund.nsf.gov.

Media & Investors Contact
Margaret Melville