Cytomine, ZORGI, the University of Liège and the University of Brussels, working as a consortium, have just been awarded €2 million in funding from Wallonia as part of a call for projects launched by the MecaTech and BioWin competitiveness clusters. Their project, SPUTUMAI, aims to develop a high performance diagnostic tool for severe forms of asthma using artificial intelligence.
In Belgium, ten per cent of the population suffers from asthma, a disease characterised by exacerbated inflammation of the respiratory tract that severely reduces the quality of life of those affected.
For the most severe forms (nearly ten per cent of asthmatics), in-depth analyses of the patient's sputum are necessary to establish a diagnosis. However, these analyses are very time-consuming for respiratory laboratories. The SPUTUMAI project, run jointly by Cytomine (a ULiège spin-off), ZORGI (formerly Xperthis), the Université de Liège and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, aims to provide a solution to this problem.
More accurate, faster and more accessible diagnosis
The SPUTUMAI project aims to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can analyse microscopic slides of the sputum of patients suffering from severe asthma and record the data relating to the profile of this inflammation in a computerised patient file adapted to the reality of this pathology. The aim is to enable clinicians to save time and improve accuracy when diagnosing and monitoring the condition, as well as prescribing personalised treatment for asthma patients on a routine clinical basis.
"Until now, to achieve the standards of analysis made possible by SPUTUMAI, it was necessary to mobilise technicians and specialised laboratories that were only accessible to large hospitals," explains Prof Renaud Louis, Director of the GIAI3 laboratory at ULiège and Head of the Pneumology Department at Liège University Hospital.
Professor Alain Michils, Director of the Asthma and Allergic Diseases Clinic at ERASME-ULB Hospital, is also delighted with this new technology, which will enable more patients to be treated.
Jean Beka, CEO of Cytomine (a ULiège spin-off), the company behind the artificial intelligence algorithms that will be used in SPUTUMAI, is delighted with this recognition: "The funding will enable us to develop the full potential of our technology around our collaborative biomedical image analysis platform. Firstly in Belgium, but then potentially much further afield, given that there are an estimated 300 million asthma sufferers worldwide.”
Thanks to the partnership with ZORGI, Belgium's leading healthcare software company and publisher of the Xperthis CARE electronic patient record, once the analyses have been carried out by SPUTUMAI, the data will be directly integrated and available for consultation in the computerised patient record by the pulmonologist for personalised patient follow-up.