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Artificial intelligence breakthrough: learning what our immune system is telling us

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Artificial intelligence breakthrough: learning what our immune system is telling us

Dr Hector Zenil.

Artificial intelligence breakthrough: learning what our immune system is telling us

By James Brewer

In what promises to be a transformative leap in healthcare, scientists are developing AI means to learn from and monitor a patient’s immune system, delivering predictive analysis and preventative medicine.

A specialist company, Oxford Immune Algorithmics (OIA) is seeking a role “to end all preventable diseases by combining the power of mind and machine.” It says that its work will have a revolutionary and sustainable impact on health globally.

The firm has invented a portable, web-based platform for rapid early detection through personalised diagnostics of many diseases and conditions.

“We’re building the most sophisticated immune health diagnostics platform,” avers Hector Zenil, founder and chief executive of UK-based Oxford Immune Algorithmics (OIA). He has been in London to present to investors his plan to raise up to $5m to support the next stage of implementation. OIA earlier raised around $5m from UK and Canadian investors.

Our Vision: A world free of preventable diseases

OIA has developed jointly with the UK National Health Service what it has named Algocyte, a hand-held finger-prick-based device. It describes this as the first Artificial Intelligence-driven solution for diagnostic and predictive health monitoring of the body’s immune system including testing for antibodies. Algocyte, the product of a decade of research, is an early warning means of alert for immune-related blood diseases such as leukaemia, blood cancers, bacterial infection, heart disease, Covid-19, and other viruses. It is also designed to contribute to solving the challenge of anti-biotic resistance by telling apart viral from bacterial infection.

Capable of being used by the patient at home, it takes a sample of blood that will gauge the immunity of the person’s bio-clinical marker.

The device is likely to be seen as a valuable technological support for health services which are being hit by growing shortages of doctors, nurses, and sometimes equipment. “With this kind of technology, we do more with less,” says Dr Zenil.

Typical of the kind of bottlenecks that are being encountered world-wide, in August 2021 it was reported that GPs in England had been told to halt routine blood tests for three weeks and hospitals to reduce the number of tests by a quarter because of a supply shortage of collection tubes.

Among his accomplishments in a 20-year career in advanced technology, Dr Zenil was a member of the coding team that developed the AI engine behind the fact-answering apps Siri and Alexa.

The first ideas about Algocyte were originated at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (the institution that awards the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine), incubated by Oxford University, and co-developed with the University of Cambridge.

OIA’s UK-based team consists of experts associated with the UK-based universities who specialise in AI, computer science, physics, and microelectronics,

Dr Zenil explained that current AI algorithms are unable to learn some tasks that require human-like cognition, but OIA has pushed forward with causal reasoning capabilities. It can thus help find disease causes rather than simply matching symptoms to other data.

OIA has been approved for the commercial release of Algocyte, which is scheduled for early 2022. 

MedTechAI, a Canadian private funding and strategic partner of OIA, owns 28% of OIA. It is planning to acquire another 10% by investing £3m ($5.2m) into OIA to increase its ownership to 38%. After such financing, the market capitalisation of MedTechAI would be just over $25m.

The MedTechAI investment will fund the release of Algocyte to the market, which would allow it to become in 2022 one of the companies holding the most significant blood test database. Early trials are planned to include some of the 150,000 patients registered with a large family doctor practice in the south of England.

MedTechAI owns 70% of Algocyte Canada and has a letter of intent with OIA to form Algocyte Canada, which will have the Canadian rights to Algocyte.

Algocyte is patent-protected and approved for distribution in Europe, having acquired CE Marker status, under which the manufacturer declares compliance with European Union legislation, validating it to be sold throughout the European Economic Area. Application has been lodged for US Federal Drug Administration approval.

Distribution agreements are in place in China and Africa and negotiations are taking place with companies in other countries.

It is anticipated that OIA will seek a listing on a UK stock exchange by the third quarter of 2022. Algocyte Canada will seek a listing in its home territory by the end of 2022

Oxford Immune Algorithmics collaborates with the Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi.  Both bodies are committed to making an impact in advancing society through AI. The Abu Dhabi-based university aspires to be the global epicentre of research in the field.

Among other recognition, OIA has been invited to implement the forecasting platform for Etihad’s Aviation Group at a global level.

Dr Zenil has been a senior researcher and faculty member at Oxford University department of computer science, and assistant professor and leader at the information dynamics lab at the unit of computational medicine at Karolinska Institute.

More recently, he was appointed by the Alan Turing Institute to lead and deliver an international report to advise the UK and allies on the future of AI capable of making scientific discoveries worthy of a Nobel prize. In the US he was a member of the NASA Payload team for the Mars Biosatellite project at MIT, in charge of developing the tracking software to study the effects of microgravity on living organisms.

OIA is chaired by Pamela Winsor, a healthcare leader in Canada with over 20 years as a senior executive in the sector. The company says that “Pam has a deep knowledge of the life sciences sector and what it takes to get a new technology or solution to market and to get it fully funded, even in a very restrained healthcare environment. More importantly, Pam has expertise in leading and steering the future direction of healthcare.”

Further information is at https://www.medtechai.io and contact is Scott Young, VP Corporate Development, MedtechAI, scott@medtechai.io

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