Investment in artificial intelligence aims to boost diagnosis of heart disease

The use of artificial intelligence to significantly improve the accuracy of coronary heart disease diagnosis has been given a boost, after its UK developer received a £10m investment.

coronary heart

Ultromics, a spin-out from Oxford University, is developing AI technology that analyses echocardiograms to detect signs of coronary heart disease, and is aiming to reduce diagnostic errors by up to 75 per cent.

The technology, known as Topological Analysis, is already being trialled in six NHS hospitals, with 14 more due to join the trial later this year, according to Ross Upton, CEO and co-founder of Ultromics, alongside Paul Leeson, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Oxford University.

Heart disease affects almost half of people over the age of 40, making it the world’s biggest killer.

To diagnose the disease, cardiologists typically assess images created by echocardiograms, but even the best centres are only correct around 80 per cent of the time. This means many patients are sent for unnecessary surgery, while others with potentially fatal coronary heart disease go undiagnosed.

The AI technology has been trained on a huge database of patient records held at Oxford, in order to spot signs of the disease, and detect where clinical mistakes were made, said Upton.

The system looks at changes in the heart’s geometry under stress conditions, he said. “We use thousands of measurements, and combine them with machine learning, to be able to predict patient outcomes.”

In a speech in Macclesfield earlier this week, the Prime Minister Theresa May pledged millions in government funding to support the development of AI for early disease diagnosis.

“Our work ties directly in to that mission statement, it is using AI to help diagnose patients and create better patient outcomes,” said Upton.

“Just by using [the technology] we can stop patients being referred for surgery unnecessarily, and we can stop patients being sent home with coronary heart disease,” he said.

The company recently announced that it has raised £10m in Series-A investment, which it will use to market the technology in the US, and make it available in the UK in early 2019.

The investment was led by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), alongside Neptune, RT Ventures, GT Healthcare, Tanarra, Fushia, and personal investors Andre Crawford-Brunt and Dieter Spälti.