In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare technology,
innovation continues to reshape the way we approach medical challenges. At ImageBiopsy Lab and UCB, a commitment to transformative solutions has led to the development of IB Lab FLAMINGO, a groundbreaking product that epitomizes the fusion of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and medical science. FLAMINGO represents a significant leap forward in the early detection of silent osteoporotic fractures, promising a future where patients receive timely and proactive care. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with a key member of the team, a computer scientist at UCB's IT AI team and a PhD researcher at the Medical Imaging Research Center, to unravel the journey behind FLAMINGO's creation, its potential impact on patients and the medical community, and the pivotal role of AI in shaping the future of healthcare.
The extended interview:
Q1: Can you please tell us about yourself: your technical background, current role, and projects you are working on at UCB?
A: With a degree in biomedical engineering from KU Leuven, Belgium, I serve as a computer scientist in UCB’s IT AI team. Concurrently, I'm a dedicated PhD researcher at the Medical Imaging Research Center, delving into image analysis projects at UCB. My focus revolves around disease detection and quantification in 3D patient images, alongside various computer vision projects supporting UCB's processes.
Q2: Can you tell us a bit more about how the idea of BoneBot was conceived at UCB?
A: Certainly, my colleague Marc Debois pitched the concept to UCB’s Innovation Fund in 2017. This endeavor aimed to leverage AI for early detection of silent osteoporotic fractures and prevent secondary fractures. Stepping out of our routine jobs, we explored this idea in start-up mode. Partnering with ImageBiopsy Lab proved pivotal, accelerating our vision into reality.
Q3: What impact do you think the technology will have on patients and the medical community in the future?
A: FLAMINGO's objective is to spare osteoporosis patients from enduring multiple, increasingly severe fractures as the disease progresses. By opportunistically screening for spine fractures in patient scans, we enable early diagnosis and management. This proactive approach holds the potential to significantly enhance patients’ quality of life and redefine osteoporosis treatment protocols.
Q4: What challenges have there been so far and how did you overcome them?
A: Scaling up our experimental results has been our primary challenge. Partnering with ImageBiopsy Lab was instrumental. Their expertise and track record in the field ensured we could build clinical evidence effectively. Open innovation and collaboration have consistently been our strategies, uniting experts with a common goal.
Q5: How does FLAMINGO work, and how did the cooperation with ImageBiopsy Lab come about?
A: FLAMINGO autonomously processes abdomen and chest CT scans, identifying vertebral fractures in real time. Partnering with ImageBiopsy Lab in 2020 was a strategic decision. Their leadership in delivering AI solutions for Musculoskeletal health aligned perfectly with our vision. Combining our strengths propelled FLAMINGO, the first fully automated vertebral fracture detection method, to fruition.
Q6: What new product has been created, and how does it differ from competitors?
A: FLAMINGO stands as the first fully automated vertebral fracture detection method capable of determining the fracture grade and localization. Its ability to process any abdomen or chest (Q)CT scan, leveraging 3D information, sets it apart. Clinical studies have highlighted its potential to aid bone experts in prioritizing patients needing immediate medical attention, thus preventing further fractures.
Q7: What will be the next steps in IB Lab FLAMINGO development?
A: Integration into IB Lab ZOO is underway, marking the birth of FLAMINGO. Piloting in global clinical sites will follow, gathering essential feedback for regulatory filings in the US and Europe. These steps are crucial in realizing FLAMINGO's full potential.
Q7: In your opinion, what role does AI play in the future of medical science and health?
A: AI's ubiquity in daily life extends to healthcare, transforming it rapidly. Its ability to analyze vast health data consistently empowers medical professionals. As digital health advances, AI becomes a cornerstone, offering insights into diseases and supporting informed decision-making. The future of medical science and health is undeniably intertwined with the possibilities AI unfolds.
In the dynamic intersection of technology and healthcare, FLAMINGO represents a beacon of progress, showcasing how collaborative innovation can redefine patient care. Stay tuned as FLAMINGO takes its strides, reshaping the future of osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment, powered by the seamless integration of AI and medical expertise.