The University of Liverpool today announced a new spin-out company that will commercialise a next generation artificial intelligence (AI) system that will revolutionise diabetic eye screening.
AI Sight Ltd will use an AI system conceived by academics at the University’s Department of Eye and Vision Science.
Diabetes causes damage to small blood vessels in organs throughout the body, including the eye (diabetic retinopathy), resulting in vision loss and ultimately, blindness. With over 500 million people worldwide suffering from diabetes and 40% of those having diabetic retinopathy, this is the most common cause of blindness in working age people worldwide.
Diabetic retinopathy screening to prevent blindness has been recommended by the World Health Organisation. It aims to identify disease at an early enough stage to allow sight saving interventions. However, the number of expert personnel required to operate a screening programme is vast.
In initially applying their technology to diabetic retinopathy, AI Sight combines human expertise and machine judgement to interpret and rank retinal images across disease severity and treatment intervention points, reducing the need for expensive and scarce medical expertise. The technology has been trained on over 1.6 million images to date. It is a highly sensitive and specific, web-based screening system that uniquely measures and displays the level of certainty of every automated image analysis. It can be easily integrated into different healthcare systems, can interpret images from any retinal camera and the team are confident it will begin to address the economic and social impact of diabetic vision loss around the world.
Chief Executive Dr Steven Powell said, “Our mission is to take our unique AI approach to image interpretation from the lab bench to the global market, in support of diabetic patients and their clinical teams to ultimately reduce the societal impact of diabetes induced blindness.”
Anthony Hollander, Chair of the Enterprise Board at UoL and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Impact said: “Once again ground-breaking research from the University of Liverpool will reach the people who will benefit from it most as we continue to be a University committed to translating research into clinical practice. AI Sight and its management team represent the perfect vehicle to take this product to market.”
The team includes Simon Harding, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, who joins the company as Chief Medical Officer, David Wong, Professor of Ophthalmology, who becomes Chief Scientific Officer and Dr Mark Johnson, a machine learning expert currently at the University of Manchester, who is AI Sight’s Chief Technical Officer.
Joining the team to lead on commercialisation is Dr Steven Powell, Chief Executive Officer, Mark Thorne, Chief Financial Officer and UoL’s Management School Professor Elizabeth Maitland, an expert in international business strategy and healthcare management. Dr Joanne Phoenix will take a position on the Board as independent non-executive Director, nominated on behalf of the University.
The company has received investment from the University of Liverpool’s Enterprise Investment Fund to provide start-up capital and is currently raising its Series A venture capital funding.
The University of Liverpool AI system research was funded by EPSRC and the Chief Investigator was Yalin Zheng, Professor of AI in Healthcare.