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Ground-breaking AI research aims to improve tests and treatments for thousands of patients

Published: 03 March 2023

Nine promising artificial intelligence (AI) healthcare technologies are receiving nearly £16 million in government funding to accelerate research. The funding comes from NIHR, the NHS AI Lab, and the Accelerated Access Collaborative.

Examples include systems to run cancer checks, diagnose rare diseases and enable the early identification of complications that can lead to preterm birth and stillbirth.

Successful technologies will be fast-tracked into the NHS to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnoses, tackle waiting lists and free up clinician time.

AI in Health and Care Award

The funding has been awarded through the third round of the AI in Health and Care Award, which is accelerating the testing and rollout of the most promising AI technologies.

The awards were set up in 2019 to develop AI technology focused on helping patients manage long-term conditions and improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis.

In total, so far £123 million has been invested in 86 AI technologies across three rounds of awards.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

"Artificial Intelligence has the potential to speed up diagnoses and treatments and free up time for our doctors and nurses so they can focus on caring for patients. Around 300,000 people have already benefited from companies supported by our AI awards, with tens of thousands more set to benefit.

These schemes includes technology that could recognise the signs of cancer more quickly and accurately, predict which women are more likely to give birth prematurely or analyse electronic health records to detect the signs of an undiagnosed rare disease."

NIHR-funded AI technologies

The new technologies funded by NIHR include digital health start-up Mendelian. The company has been awarded £1.4 million to support an AI system which can diagnose and identify a patient’s risk of developing rare diseases, as well as recommending the best treatments, by analysing electronic health records.

The funded teams also include the Tommy's National Centre for Maternity Improvement, a consortium led jointly by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives, which has already developed an online medical tool which is able to identify women at risk of preterm birth or complications that can lead to stillbirth. Tommy’s App processes information gathered at pregnancy appointments, provides a risk assessment and offers personalised care recommendations to help lower the risk of complications that can lead to preterm birth and stillbirth. The team will receive nearly £1.9 million in government funding to trial NHS implementation of the technology, with investigations led by the University of Bristol and Kings College London.

Projects funded via NIHR

University Hospital Coventry, and Warwickshire NHS Trust - £2,517,987. The Trust is leading a project to digitise 10 major NHS laboratories and create a hub containing images of patients’ cells. The new funding would encourage monitoring of these images to pick up indication of bowel cancer.

Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust - £833,816. The Trust is using AI to improve diagnosis of lung artery blockages and high blood pressure which results in breathing difficulties.

Mendelian Ltd - £1,430,848. This digital health start-up is capturing disease features from electronic health records across a patient population, matching patients to published diagnostic criteria for hundreds of rare diseases.

Oxford Cancer Biomarkers Limited - £1,475,357. This group is using AI to identify biomarkers – genes which may suggest a predisposition to certain diseases - in screening to help clinicians deliver personalised care to patients with colorectal cancer.

Icometrix - £1,417,658. This company is developing a range of AI products to assist with the treatment and monitoring of neurological disorders such as brain trauma, epilepsy, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. The new funding will enable researchers to focus on imaging of multiple sclerosis.

Cibiltech - £1,141,441. This start up is developing digital solutions for medicine in kidney transplant. Their AI-based algorithm helps surgeons to adjust specific treatments to improve patient outcomes, by predicting the outcome of a kidney transplant to aid decision making.

University of Bristol (Tommy’s App) - £1,869,493. A consortium led by the University of Bristol has developed an online medical tool which is identifying pregnant women who are most at risk of giving birth prematurely or of developing complications that could lead to stillbirth.

Projects funded via the NHS AI Lab

Medtronic Limited - £2,450,694. Medtronic is developing an AI-based medical device called GI Genius, which has been trained to process colonoscopy images and detect signs of cancer.

Ibex Medical Analytics Ltd - £1,542,993. Ibex’s technology analyses images of tissue extracts and helps pathologists determine the presence of cancer, allowing them to complete recordings more quickly.


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