VUNO: Innovating Healthcare Through AI-Powered Diagnostic Precision Platforms

Yeha Lee

VUNO delivers innovative standalone, cloud-based, and integrated deep learning applications that significantly improve physician’s workflow while enhancing patient care. From imaging modalities like X-rays and CT scans to bio-signal monitoring systems, the company provides a diverse array of services that quantifies and analyzes data to diagnose diseases. The company’s medical diagnostic support platform, VUNO-Med, is built on top of proprietary AI engine, VUNO-Net, that leverages high quality large-scale medical data and enables real-time experience and allows the results of services to be analyzed from anywhere. VUNO’s product portfolio is expanding to other therapeutic classes in cardiology, ophthalmology, and infectious diseases.

The company was founded by three ML researchers from Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology; Yeha Lee (CEO), Hyun-Jun Kim (CSO) and Kyu-Hwan Jung (CTO). The founders were exposed to deep learning, and they decided to start a company because they saw the infinite possibilities and values of the technology.

While studying machine learning, Yeha Lee, CEO of VUNO, thought it was a technology that could be applied to a variety of businesses. He wondered how the technology could be used to make the biggest impact on society. So, the VUNO management team decided to apply the technology to the medical field to improve doctors’ work environment and improve the quality of their medical services.

Since then, VUNO has accumulated deep technological assets in a wide range of medical data analysis. The process of launching Korea’s first medical AI solution was not easy. Developing the technology was only the beginning, as a completely new market needed to be created. From the outset, the founders went through about a two-year journey to get permission to take part in setting guidelines to receive certifications to market products.

Today, VUNO is leading in various fields, including medical image analysis, bio-signal analysis, pathological image analysis, and medical voice recognition based on artificial intelligence technology.


The Leadership of Admirable Achievers

VUNO’s co-founder and CEO, Yeha Lee, founded VUNO in December 2014 to develop AI-based medical diagnostic solutions in anticipation of the potential and future of AI technology. He is committed to the development of diagnostic solutions across the field. He has served as an advisory committee member of the National Science and Technology Advisory Council and is a steering committee member of the National Strategy Project Steering Committee on Artificial Intelligence in Korea.

VUNO’s co-founder and CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), Hyun-Jun Kim, has been currently working on the commercialization of various artificial intelligence-based diagnostic technologies. He is now a member of the AI Guidelines Council of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. He is also a member of the Science and Technology Innovation Committee and the Digital Healthcare Special Committee of the Fourth Industrial Revolution Commission.

VUNO’s co-founder and CTO (Chief Technology Officer), Kyu-Hwan Jung, has led the medical imaging research and developed various clinical decision support solutions using AI. His background in studying the field of Non-linear Optimization, Machine Learning, and Data Mining led to various R&D achievements at VUNO. He earned the best doctoral dissertation award from his department for academic excellence during his Ph.D.


Proactively Transforming Industry with Novel Approaches

In the medical field, which is indispensable for humans, there is always a global problem of human resource shortages and service imbalances. The government’s multipronged efforts, such as expanding the medical budget and changing the medical system into a public system, did not show remarkable results in the short term, and medical AI emerged as the technology to solve this unmet need.

Medical AI improves the quality of care by minimizing staff errors and helping to diagnose diseases early. VUNO contributes to improving the quality and reach of healthcare, improving the health of patients, and ultimately lowering societal costs by providing efficient, accurate, and proven solutions for physician decision making.

Currently, companies founded after VUNO are in the process of seeking approval for 20 AI medical devices. VUNO is addressing the vast problems of the medical field one by one by proactively trying novel approaches such as expanding the target disease and updating the product solutions.


AI Elevating Scope for Optimal Treatment

AI technology, which was limited in how it could support physicians in the research setting, has opened the door for wider use of the technology in the medical field. Conventional technology, so-called rule-based algorithms, have shown predictable results but AI technology has made the impossible possible by elevating the diagnostic capability to the human level in medical imaging. Moreover, in the situation where the skill level is different for each medical staff due to high dependence on the individual’s clinical experience, data analytics can have consulted for the optimal treatment for each patient and this trend is massively increasing. For a human being, it is impossible to make the best decision by analyzing all the data. Besides, high societal costs are also incurred due to unequal medical access in time and space.

Kyu-Hwan said AI technology serves as an innovative and cost-effective solution that overcomes the limitations of the past generations of healthcare and provides accurate, consistent, and scalable properties in response to the current conditions.

“VUNO’s solution has revolutionized the process of finding diseases that are hard to find and has cut down the process to one second and can complete tasks that used to take more than five hours in less than a minute. Also, we are developing disruptive technological innovation by developing AI diagnosis technology based on all information generated from patients such as images, bio-signals, and EMR,” Hyun-Jun added.


Praiseworthy Global Attention and Recognition

From its inception, VUNO has gained global attention by winning excellent results at international competitions with advanced AI technology. Significant awards and achievements are as follows:

• ILSVRC 2015 – Ranked 5th at the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC) in 2015

• ISBI Challenge 2018 – Ranked 1st at the ISBI Funduscopy Challenge sponsored by the International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI)

• MICCAI 2018 – Ranked 2nd at a challenge in International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI)

• Kaggle RSNA challenge 2018 – Ranked in the top 1% of 3,000 teams in the Pneumonia Detection Challenge for the RSNA Kaggle competition

• AWS AI Startup Challenge 2018 – Ranked 1st at the AI Startup Challenge sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS)

• DX Award 2018 – Won the Digital Transformation (DX) award in Korea


Rising Challenges with Evolution

VUNO is currently facing two issues: regulatory issues and market persuasion. AI is no longer an unfamiliar or distant technology, but a tool for hospital use. As VUNO gradually develops new products and deals with high-risk diseases, it is continuously trying to convince customers such as doctors who have a conservative view and to inform them of the utility of the products.

“At the same time, we believe that as we develop products that address a variety of issues that solve unmet needs, we must take the role of pioneering the industry and lay the groundwork for the market,” said Hyun-Jun.

Another problem is regulation. AI’s primary goal is to assist physicians immediately but the client does not pay for the practical results; improvement of care provided to patients with minimizing reading errors. In other words, service providers, users, beneficiaries, and payers have a complicated structure, and in most countries, a number of artificial intelligence medical devices have no reimbursement policy, which deepens this.


Moving Towards an Unconventional Future

Many medical device companies have already introduced AI products or are collaborating with companies to deploy their products, so the market has already entered the early market stage. Global medical companies such as GE / Philips / Siemens have already received regulatory approval/released the relevant products, and have also created a structure in which various AI products can be distributed on the company’s platform. AI healthcare companies have dozens of FDA and CE cases, and sell products to hospitals on a stand-alone basis or provide cloud-based innovative services.

“VUNO is not only the first AI medical device that received regulatory approval in Korea but also was the first healthcare AI company to receive regulatory clearance to operate on the cloud under the Ministry of Health and Welfare (Korean FDA). Such cases are rare in the world and are unimaginable in the traditional medical device industry,”  Hyun-Jun concluded.

Currently, many users are starting to use patient imaging in the cloud, and many companies are competing to prepare similar services. A kind of service that is Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) will present itself in many forms in the future. Various types of services, such as smartphones and the web, will be utilized, and regulatory authorities are busy preparing institutional devices for them.

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