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This British startup is speeding up stroke care with AI imaging, secures £16M funding

Image credit: Brainomix

Saving time to provide accurate medical treatment could result in a better outcome and save someone from a severe lifelong disability. Stroke is a devastating condition that affects more than 100,000 people each year in the UK. Several treatments have come in the past few years for stroke patients, out of which Oxford-based company Brainomix is hoping its artificial intelligence (AI) software can expand access to this life-saving procedure.

Now the medtech pioneer Brainomix has secured £16 million investment in their recently closed Series B funding round. The round was co-led by existing investors Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) and Parkwalk Advisors. They were joined by Hong Kong-based Tencent Holdings as well as the Oxford University Innovation Fund.

Investors have already seen Brainomix’s success and are looking to continue developing medical AI products. BIVF’s Dr Oliver Reuss pointed to its history. “Brainomix has proven its ability to deliver scalable AI-imaging solutions that have already demonstrated tremendous value to stroke patients worldwide,” he said, adding that the investment will help develop new solutions “that can contribute to transforming patients’ lives by increasing treatment rates and medical outcome.”

What AI offers medicine

Brainomix specialises in providing AI-enabled software to assist clinicians in their decisions. Medicine frequently relies on incredibly nuanced decision-making. While there is a range of diagnostic tools available to doctors, they rarely offer clear-cut answers. Doctors are forced to interpret their results based on their experience, case content, and sometimes even instinct.

Despite their professionalism, doctors are not infallible. When the human eye cannot easily interpret diagnostic scans, the wrong decision can mean the patient undergoes unnecessary interventions or, worse, not getting the treatment they need.

AI has started to revolutionise these decisions. Trained with more data than entire hospitals may see, AI software can analyse images and data and help doctors make better decisions.

Tested with stroke patients

Brainomix started at Oxford University. Dr Michalis Papadakis, the co-founder now Brainomix’s CEO, was the scientific director at the preclinical stroke lab when he identified the problems with a stroke diagnosis. He tells TFN, “Diagnosis relies on the interpretation of CT brain scans and can be challenging and inconsistent,” Papadakis said, “It, therefore, benefits from AI-based diagnostic support.”

The result was the e-Stroke system, which was commercialised in 2016. The system can interpret brain scans to determine if there has been a stroke and, if so, assess the severity of it. The AI, through deep learning, is adept at identifying ischemic damage to the brain, this restriction in blood supply is the cause of strokes.

Papadakis points to research that highlights the benefits this brings. “The AI supports physicians in making more accurate treatment and transfer decisions,” he told TFN. “Recent studies have shown this results in faster treatment and better patient outcomes.”

Already a market leader

Brainomix’s e-Stroke platform is already widely used, and essentially created the market for AI-imaging in strokes. It won an NHSX AI in Health and Care award in 2020, resulting in its deployment throughout the UK. Its widespread adoption means that it’s used in over 280 hospitals across thirty countries, and Brainomix is the market leader in the Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) market.

“Stroke is our legacy, our foundation,” says Papadakis. “We created the first stroke AI-imaging tool, which is the world’s most comprehensive stroke imaging solution.” Part of its success has been its clinician-focused technology. Competitors in the space have focused on radiologists, and while they are specialists in medical imaging, it means that their products have not transitioned into broad clinical use.

Brainomix has also benefited from its background. Having spun out from Oxford University in 2010, it has been well-placed to take advantage of its academic heritage and strategic partnerships. It is currently working with medical device manufacturers like Stryker and Wallaby and pharmaceutical companies like Boehringer Ingelheim.

However, the technologies that are so effective with a stroke can be applied to other illnesses and conditions. Brainomix is mainly looking at expanding into new diagnostic areas, such as lung fibrosis and cancer, which will benefit from AI.

Plans for the future

Papadakis plans for the funding to expand on Brainomix’s established success. Having become EMEA market leaders, targeting the US market will focus on 2022 and increasing the range of conditions for which they offer AI software.

Ultimately, Brainomix wants the funds to help patients. “It will enable partnerships to improve clinical trial success and foster adoption of AI in the new indications,” says Papadakis. “At Brainomix, we look at the whole patient pathway to optimise patient treatment decisions and outcomes.”

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