Successful bids for £50m UK AI digital pathology and imaging network announced

Five new AI centres will be created in London, Leeds, Oxford, Coventry and Glasgow.
By Leontina Postelnicu
06:55 AM
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UK Business Secretary Greg Clark; Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Business Secretary Greg Clark has unveiled today the successful consortium groups that will create five new digital pathology and imaging centres leveraging AI to speed up disease diagnosis in the UK, bringing together representatives from academia, the charitable sector and industry.

The network will be developed through a £50m investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine Challenge, expected to become operational in 2019.

According to information released earlier this year, the centres will have to ensure that their activities are linked with policy makers and regulatory bodies, working with relevant partners, including the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars in England and the Digital Innovation Hubs in the UK, to tackle standardisation, data sharing and interoperability issues.

“The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images varying from x-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis,” said Professor Mark Walport, UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive.

These include the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging in Oxford, the Northern Pathology Imaging Collaborative in Leeds, the Industrial Centre for AI Research in Digital Diagnostics in Glasgow, the Pathology image data lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education in Coventry, and the London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare.

Philips, GE Healthcare, Siemens and Leica are some of the companies that will be leading the new centres, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The University of Glasgow said six SMEs, Canon Medical Research Europe and Philips would be investing more than £5m, in addition to the £10m funding from UKRI, to support the Scotland consortium. 

“This is a genuine collaboration between researchers from Scottish universities, the NHS, and industry partners who are also contributing large sums to enable this project to be a success. Our aim is to transform digital diagnostic healthcare in Scotland, in order to benefit patients and make processes more streamlined and modern for the NHS,” said Professor David Harrison, Principal Investigator for this project.

Meanwhile, companies involved in the Northern Pathology Imaging Co-operative in Leeds have pledged to invest a further £7m in the programme.

“This new northern co-operative will allow us to use digital pathology to help patients across the region, and provide a platform on which we will develop artificial intelligence tools for pathology diagnosis to be used around the world,” added Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Pathologist Dr Darren Treanor, who is leading the initiative.

The £50m investment follows a sector deal between the government and the life sciences sector announced in December 2017, after the launch of Sir John Bell's Life Sciences Industrial Strategy.

Earlier this year, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee warned that the strategy had "little chance of success" without clear accountability lines and without effectively engaging the NHS.

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Twitter: @1Leontina
Contact the author: lpostelnicu@himss.org