Artificial Intelligence to help save lives at five new technology centres

UK’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution gets new backing as Business Secretary announces five new centres of excellence for digital pathology and imaging

  • Patients set to benefit from radical advances in medical technology using artificial intelligence to diagnose diseases at an earlier stage
  • The centres will use AI, an area the Government is backing in its modern Industrial Strategy, to find new ways to speed up diagnosis of diseases to improve outcomes for patients
  • Based in Leeds, Oxford, Coventry, Glasgow and London – but each with partners across many parts of the UK – the centres will develop more-intelligent analysis of medical imaging, leading to better clinical decisions for patients and freeing more staff time for direct patient care in the NHS

New centres announced this week will bring doctors, businesses and academics together to develop new products using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advances in digital technology in order to improve early diagnosis of diseases including cancer.

The products developed at the new centres will offer more-personalised treatment for patients while freeing up doctors to spend more time caring for patients.

The £50m investment in large-scale genomics and image analysis will drive new understanding of how complex diseases develop in a pro-active step to ensure people get the right treatment at the right time.

Business Secretary, Greg Clark, said: “AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare and improve lives for the better. That’s why our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain fit for the future.

The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images, varying from X-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies

“The innovation at these new centres will help diagnose disease earlier to give people more options when it comes to their treatment, and make reporting more efficient, freeing up time for our much-admired NHS staff time to spend on direct patient care.”

The centres will be funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Government’s flagship investment programme that focuses on addressing the opportunities and challenges of the future, which is managed by UK Research and Innovation.

The centres will be spearheaded by some of the UK’s leading medical companies including GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Leica, Canon and Roche Diagnostics.

The investment marks a significant step in delivering on a major commitment in the Life Sciences Sector Deal, published in December 2017, which built on Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy of August 2017.

As part of our long-term plan we will transform the NHS into an ecosystem of enterprise and innovation that allows technology to flourish and evolve

UKRI chief executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Early diagnosis of illness can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and save lives.

“The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images, varying from X-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis.”

The centres are:

  • The London Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare will use artificial intelligence in medical imaging and related clinical data for faster and earlier diagnosis and automating expensive and time-consuming manual reporting
  • Glasgow’s Industrial Centre for AI Research in Digital Diagnostics (I-CAIRD) will bring together clinicians, health planners, and industry to work with innovative SMEs to answer clinical questions, and solve healthcare challenges more quickly and efficiently
  • The National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI) in Oxford will consider the role clinical imaging plays in the delivery of more-personalised care and earlier diagnosis to support disease prevention and treatment
  • The Northern Pathology Imaging Collaborative (NPIC) located in Leeds will boost the city’s reputation in digital pathology research further by creating a world-leading centre linking up nine industry partners, eight universities and nine NHS trusts
  • Based in Coventry, the Pathology image data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education (PathLAKE) will use NHS pathology data to drive economic growth in health-related AI

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. said: “Artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in the future of the NHS – and we need to embrace it by introducing systems which can speed up diagnoses, improve patient outcomes, make every pound go further and give clinicians more time with their patients.

“As part of our long-term plan we will transform the NHS into an ecosystem of enterprise and innovation that allows technology to flourish and evolve.”

The centres, which will be based at universities and in NHS facilities, are expected to be up and running during 2019.

Speaking to BBH following the announcement, Mark Frankish, a data scientist at SAS, welcomed the news, saying: “Currently, 10 times more money is spent on treating disease than on prevention - £97billion of public money versus £8billion trying to prevent it.

Although the NHS has always been a relentless producer of data; it has a longstanding problem with knowing how to store and use it effectively

“These numbers clearly do not stack up.

“To address the shortfall in prevention, artificial intelligence (AI) must be the next major investment area for the NHS.

“By introducing deep learning and machine learning, data from past case notes, biomedical imaging, and health monitors could be used to advance the use of predictive diagnostics and improve response times in patient care, improving the NHS’s forecasting abilities.”

He added: “According to the tech investment plans already announced by Theresa May, the Government claims it will see ‘at least 50,000 people’ each year being able to get an early diagnosis of several cancers, which it believes will save around 20,000 lives each year by 2033. Now we need to build on that foundation.

By investing in a technology-driven, value-focused model of care; the NHS will be able to improve its ability to analyse large volumes of data and focus more on preventing disease

“Although the NHS has always been a relentless producer of data; it has a longstanding problem with knowing how to store and use it effectively.

“To ensure the right care is delivered to patients there needs to be an improvement in decision-making with the data available.

“By investing in a technology-driven, value-focused model of care; the NHS will be able to improve its ability to analyse large volumes of data and focus more on preventing disease.’

Royal Philips is leading two of the innovation projects that will receive investment as part of this boost – iCAIRD and PathLAKE.

These will help to fully digitise a number of NHS pathology laboratories, expanding access to innovative digital pathology services in the UK.

The digitisation of pathology services in this way will accelerate the development of novel artificial intelligence (AI) software to support cancer diagnostics.

“Philips has been fully invested in the Government’s Life Sciences Industry Strategy from the outset and now has two opportunities to build strong partnerships that will drive improved patient care in the UK for years to come,” said Neil Mesher, chief executive for Philips UK and Ireland.

“Philips sees this as not only an opportunity to invest in improved and earlier diagnostics for patients via AI in pathology services, but also as a new day for collaborative, cross-partner working that will ensure a futureproofed, world-class NHS.

“We are honoured to be part of what will undoubtedly be an exciting three years in digital diagnostics and personalised medicine discovery.”

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