NVIDIA’s Clara healthcare platform uses AI to study COVID-19
Graphics card manufacturer NVIDIA has, in more recent times, branched out from mainly focusing on gaming to areas such as automotive and, increasingly, healthcare.
A number of companies participating in the company’s Inception startup accelerator programme have interests in healthcare. One, Deep 6 AI, focuses on using machine learning to analyse medical records and identify potential candidates for medical trials. Another, Aiforia, is using AI to automate the analysis of tissue samples.
Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang has expressed his belief in the role of AI to power a new era of computing, writing in a blog post: “Today, we stand at the beginning of the next era, the AI computing era, ignited by a new computing model, GPU deep learning. This new model — where deep neural networks are trained to recognize patterns from massive amounts of data — has proven to be “unreasonably” effective at solving some of the most complex problems in computer science. In this era, software writes itself and machines learn. Soon, hundreds of billions of devices will be infused with intelligence. AI will revolutionize every industry.”
NVIDIA’s own Clara healthcare platform serves as a framework for AI-powered imaging, genomics, and for the development and deployment of smart sensors.
Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NVIDIA announced it was expanding the platform to assist the medical community “track, test and treat” COVID-19. Those expansions include genome sequencing software, AI models to help with disease detection and video analytics and speech recognition software to reduce staff exposure in hospitals.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged the collaboration of technology, research and the healthcare industry to develop new computing solutions that accelerate the understanding of the spread, scale and severity of this disease,” said Kimberly Powell, vice president of Healthcare at NVIDIA. “Never before has there been such a critical need to apply the best AI technology and accelerated computing to every facet of healthcare, and its effects will be felt widely beyond this pandemic and across healthcare going forward.”
C. Light aim to detect Alzheimer's with AI and eye movements
C. Light Technologies, a neurotechnology and AI company based in Boston, has received funding for a pilot study that will assess changes in eye motion during the earliest stage of Alzheimer's, known as mild cognitive impairment.
C. Light Technologies has partnered with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center for this research. As new therapeutics for Alzheimer’s are introduced to the clinic, this UCSF technology has the potential to provide clinicians a better method to measure disease progression, and ultimately therapeutic efficacy, using C. Light’s novel retinal motion technology.
Eye motion has been used for decades to triage brain health, which is why doctors asks you to “follow my finger” when they want to assess whether you have concussion. In more than 30 years of research, studies have revealed that Alzheimer’s disease patients' eye movements are affected by the disease, though to date, these eye movements have only been measured on a larger scale.
C. Light’s research takes the eye movement tests to a microscopic level for earlier assessments. Clinicians can study and measure eye motion on a scale as small as 1/100th the size of a human hair, which can help them monitor a patient’s disease and treat it more effectively.
The tests are also easy to administer. Patients put their chin in a chinrest and focus on a target for 10 seconds. The test does not require eye dilation, and patients are permitted to blink. A very low-level laser light is shown through the pupil and reflects off the patient’s retina, while a sensitive camera records the cellular-level motion in a high-resolution video. This eye motion is then fed into C. Light’s advanced analytical platform.
“C. Light is creating an entirely new data stream about the status of brain health via the eye,” explains Dr. Christy K. Sheehy, co-founder of C. Light. “Our growing databases and accompanying AI can change the way we monitor and treat neurological disease for future generations. Ultimately, we’re working to increase the longevity and quality of life for our loved ones."
At the moment developing therapeutic treatments for the central nervous system is difficult, with success rates of only 8% to go from conception to market. One reason for this is the lack of tools to measure the progression of diseases that impact the nervous system.
Additionally clinical trials can take a decade to come to fruition because the methods used to assess drug efficacy are inefficient. C. Light believe they can change this.
“Before this year, it had been almost 20 years since an Alzheimer’s drug was brought to market" explains Sheehy. "Part of the reason for this very slow progress is that drug developers haven’t had viable biomarkers that they can use to effectively stratify patients and track disease on a fine scale. The ADDF’s investment will allow us to do that."
C. Light has received the investment from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) through its Diagnostics Accelerator, a collaborative research initiative supported by Bill Gates, the Dolby family, and Jeff Bezos among other donors.
C. Light recently completed its second and final seed round raising $500,000, including the ADDF investment, which brings their total seed funding to more than $3 million. Second round seed funders included: ADDF, the Wisconsin River Business Angels, Abraham Investments, LLC and others.
The ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator has made previous investments in more than two dozen world-class research programmes to explore blood, ocular, and genetic biomarkers, as well as technology-based biomarkers to identify the early, subtle changes that happen in people with Alzheimer’s.