Giving hope to newborns

Ubenwa analyses a baby’s cry to detect early signs of abnormalities which could be fatal such as asphyxia or brain-injury.

  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots
  • Ubenwa App screenshots


The Challenge

Birth Asphyxia is one of the top 3 causes of infant mortality in the world, causing the death of about 1.2 million infants and severe life-long disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and paralysis) to an equal number annually. "If newborns who have asphyxia can be detected early enough, we may be able to save their lives" - UN.

What we are doing

We are developing a machine learning system that can take as input the infant cry, analyse the amplitude and frequency patterns in the cry, to provide instant diagnosis of birth asphyxia. The test results from our diagnostic software have shown a Sensitivity of over 86% and Specificity of 89%.

What we have achieved

For testing, our algorithm has been deployed as a mobile app which harnesses the processing capabilities of smartphones to provide near-instantaneous assessment of whether or not a newborn has or is at risk of asphyxia. Ubenwa is non-invasive and can be over 95% cheaper than existing clinical alternative.


  • March 2019

    WHO Top 30 Africa Health Innovators

    Ubenwa was recognized by the World Health Organisation as one of top 30 healthcare innovators in Africa.

  • January 2019

    A Review of 2018

    A blog post reflecting on the team's challenges and accomplishments of 2018, and providing a window into what is to come in 2019.

  • December, 2018

    Top 30 Teams in XPrize

    Ubenwa is one of 30 teams that have qualified for the 3rd round of AI XPrize competition. [Update: The Ubenwa team voluntarily exited the AI XPrize as of June 6, 2019]

  • February, 2018

    TWiML AI Podcast

    Charles gave a talk on the show - This Week in Machine Learning and AI (TWiML). Listen here.

  • December, 2017

    NIPS 2017 Presentation

    Unveiling of the Ubenwa mobile app at the Workshop on Machine Learning for the Developing World at NIPS 2017.

  • September, 2017

    Pitches at Montreal AI Symposium and ITU Telecom World

    Charles presented Ubenwa at the Montreal AI Symposium. Watch here and Innocent pitched Ubenwa at ITU Telecom World in Busan, South Korea.

  • June, 2017

    Exhibition at United Nations AI for Good Summit

    We participated as exhibitors at the first United Nations AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva.

  • June, 2017

    Ubenwa in the AI XPrize

    Ubenwa has been selected as one of 141 teams from around the world to compete in the IBM AI XPrize . The AI XPrize is a $5million contest aiming to reward teams applying AI to address grand challenges.

  • January, 2017

    Mentorship at District 3

    Ubenwa has been accepted into the startup mentorship program at District 3. District 3 is a leading innovation hub in Montreal, Canada.

  • December, 2015

    Best Paper Award at NIPS

    Charles presented early work on Ubenwa, receiving the NVIDIA best paper award at the Machine Learning for Healthcare (MLHC) workshop at Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) 2015 conference.

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The Team

Charles C. Onu

Founder & AI Research Lead

Charles carries out research at the intersection of AI and biomedical engineering at Mila - the Québec Artificial Intelligence Institute and McGill University. He has industry experience in software engineering and machine learning at CypherCrescent and Health Experiences Canada.

Samantha Latremouille

Clinical Development Lead

Samantha is a PhD candidate in Experimental Medicine at McGill University, with additional studies in Translational Biomedical Engineering and Surgical Innovation. She is currently researching biological signal analysis in the newborn intensive care unit.

Innocent Udeogu

Software Engineering Lead

Innocent is a software engineer and technology entrepreneur. A graduate of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST Africa), he has delivered several software engineering projects at Andela

Jon Lebensold

Strategy Lead

Jon is a researcher and entrepreneur. His work at Mila focuses on reinforcement learning and differential privacy in AI systems. He co-founded Paradem Consulting, building it over 5 years it into a successful software and cloud services consulting company.


Prof. Doina Precup

Artificial Intelligence

Prof. Yoshua Bengio

Artificial Intelligence

Prof. Edward Alikor

Paediatric Neurology

Prof Robert E Kearney

Biomedical Engineering

Urbain Kengni


Scott Schaffter

Product Development for Learning and Healthcare

Gautam Bhattacharya, PhD

Machine Learning

Eyenimi Ndiomu, MD, MPH

Global/Public Health


Media Mentions

Contact Us

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Montreal, QC H3H 2L3


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