Screening for Alzheimer’s disease using AI technology
Alzheimer’s disease impacts the lives of many. iLoF is developing a tool that can not only diagnose Alzheimer’s, but can also accurately predict who is going to develop it in the future. They are building a platform, powered by photonics and AI, which is more accurate, less invasive and less costly than current diagnostic methods.
We interviewed Mehak Mumtaz, iLoF co-founder and COO, and Athina Spiliopoulou, Usher Institute Research Fellow, about a collaboration between iLoF and the Usher Institute. Katy Guthrie, AI Accelerator Programme Manager, also joined us to talk about her role in putting the collaboration together.
What do you want to achieve through the collaboration between iLoF and the Usher Institute?
Athina: Alzheimer's disease impacts the lives of patients, their relatives and caregivers and is putting increasing pressure on our healthcare systems.
Conventional diagnostic measures for Alzheimer's disease are invasive and cost-intensive. iLoF’s technology provides an alternative diagnostic device that accurately predicts who is going to develop Alzheimer's disease and differentiates between different types of dementia in a way that is cheaper, faster and less invasive. The aim of this project was to pilot a study that would gather evidence on whether iLoF's photonics fingerprint and AI technology was successful in achieving this.
Mehak: iLoF are using photonics and AI to develop screening and classification tools for complex heterogeneous diseases. Our team had made advancements in acquiring data and creating initial models for one of our key indications - Alzheimer's disease. But we were also facing challenges with data quality and interpreting outputs, especially in the real-world context. The Usher Institute is transforming health and social care through data-driven innovation so, they were well placed to support us to address these through the collaboration.
How did the collaboration between the Usher Institute and iLoF come about?
Mehak: iLoF were selected to participate in the 2021 AI Accelerator, where we learned about strategy, made some lifelong connections and advanced our technology development.
Katy: The AI Accelerator supported iLoF and Usher to work together. We went out to the academic community to highlight the Accelerator programme and invited them to take part. Through this, we introduced iLoF to the Usher Institute and Athina.
Athina: My background is in machine learning, statistical genetics, and molecular epidemiology. Mehak and I decided we would work together, with me offering my expertise in the statistical analysis plan and making sure that the pilot study had proper statistical design and reported results in an unbiased manner. With Katy, we formulated a proposal for this consultancy work. DDE was also able to provide a pot of funding to pay for my time.
What progress have you seen so far?
Mehak: With Athina's help, we've been able to improve the robustness of our processes, the performance of our models, how we interpret the output, and the speed of computation. It's also instilled in the team a scientific rigour for analysis and interpretation which has benefited all of our business.
How has the collaboration benefited iLoF?
Mehak: This has been useful for coaching the team and getting support with problem solving. We've also secured some follow-on funding for the project with the University of Edinburgh, which we're very excited about!
Katy: For iLoF, this has been an opportunity to have their work independently validated - working with a University of Edinburgh academic lends credibility to their research. Athina has also made several suggestions for extending the work to benefit the company’s development.
What is the benefit of this collaboration, and other collaborations like it, to the Usher Institute?
Katy: iLoF’s work aligns with Usher’s objective to advance health through innovation. iLoF has a route to market. Usher has a wealth of expertise and skills that are useful to iLoF, and this collaboration is a way in which we can harness the huge academic expertise that exists within the University and bring it out into the world so people can access new health-tech solutions and benefit from them.
Athina: Through the collaboration, I got to contribute to the production of a medical device - something which when it goes to market will have a big impact on society and people affected by Alzeimer’s disease. I also enjoyed working with iLoF’s energetic team of analysts, supporting them to go through the data.
What is next for the collaboration?
Katy: I'm hopeful this will lead to further collaborations between iLoF and Usher. There are already plans for additional studies and to bring another academic from the University in.
Athina: There are a number of next steps we are working on with iLoF. After we’ve published the results of the pilot study, iLoF has funding for an additional consultancy with me where I'll advise further on the AI technology. They also have a larger, new, independent sample that we’re going to analyse.
Mehak: This collaboration has opened up some additional avenues for collaboration with the University in other indications, and we're currently working together to apply for grants to do so. I'm very excited to see what the future holds for us!