Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) is a rare but potentially fatal cardiorespiratory disease, affecting people of all ages. As it stands, the average time for diagnosis is 2 years and 2 months and, if left untreated, an average of only 2 years and 6 months for mortality.
CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA) scans are routinely taken in the early stages for many potential chest conditions including PH. However, general radiologists will often miss indirect signs that PH is present, severely reducing survivability and treatment options.
Dr Andrew Cookson, Principal Investigator, and Dr Jeff Clark, Early Career Researcher, both from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have secured further funding from Innovate UK to commence the journey of spinning-out a company which supports the improved diagnosis of PH.
Using machine learning as a form of AI technology, they are developing zero-click software for automated screening of PH in these routinely acquired CTPAs. This will enable the extraction of clinically validated indicators that indicate a high likelihood of the condition and therefore enable earlier referral to a specialist clinic.
Dr Andrew Cookson, Principal Investigator, says:
Using our machine learning based software we can bring the expertise of specialist radiologists to every radiology clinic across the UK, equalising the quality of care and ensuring that PH is detected as soon as possible. If detected early PH can usually be treated and allow patients to retain a good quality of life, as well as have increased life expectancy. We are also exploring the application of our technology to help clinicians determine the likelihood of a patient developing a serious subtype of PH following a pulmonary embolism and therefore help with preventative measures.
The research team has received further funding through the ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) programme from Innovate UK, which supports the commercial development of applied research.
Dr Jeff Clark, Early Career Researcher on the project, says:
At the end of the first phase of ICURe funding we had the chance to pitch to a panel of technology transfer and business experts which was a fantastic opportunity. Innovate UK was really supportive of pursuing the spin-out route and awarded us a second tranche of ICURe funding to help drive the company strategically. I’d really recommend the scheme if you’re on the fence of the commercial application for your technology being developed.
The ICURe funding builds on Research Capability Funding from the Royal United Hospitals Bath which they received in 2020, as well as the University Impact Fund and the University of Bath's UKRI-EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA). This enabled them to work in collaboration with Clinical Radiologists at the Royal United Hospital, developing an automated software that exactly matched the clinical need.
The research team is also applying to SETsquared Executives into Business, part of the SETsquared Scale-Up Programme, which recruits talented business executives to lead strong and innovative companies in the process of spinning out.
Natalie Harker, Technology Transfer Manager, and Phil Brown, Head of Technology Transfer, both from Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Bath, were instrumental in developing the successful funding bids with the research team. Natalie says:
There were very clear benefits to develop the case for commercial support. The deployment of such a software product across all eligible hospitals could drastically shorten the time to diagnosis of many patients by ensuring swift referral to a specialist PH service. This will lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced clinical burden, and improved economic outlook. You can understand why external funders have had such confidence in supporting their fast-track screening development.
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