Founded in 2015, Imagia is an Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare company, with activities in medical devices and interventional procedures, imaging and diagnostics, personal health and disease management. Imagia developed EVIDENS, an AI-first platform for clinician driven end-to-end discoveries of predictive, diagnostic and prescriptive analytics. The company’s mission is to leverage advances in artificial intelligence to accelerate the advent of accessible personalized healthcare, with an initial focus on clinical solutions for personalized oncology. Imagia is a Montreal, Québec-based company and over the last three years, has grown to a team of more than 50 AI and healthcare industry experts, including MDs, with expertise in both AI research and development, and clinical patient management.
The story of how Imagia came to be is deeply personal for Imagia’s Chief Operating Officer, Alexandre Le Bouthillier who wanted to turn his personal loss to cancer into something positive. He founded Imagia with his long-time friend Nicolas Chapados, Imagia’s Chief Scientific Officer by combining their extensive knowledge of AI and optimization, learned in their previous successful venture, to improve the future of medicine. The pair, in collaboration with Professor Yoshua Bengio, the world-renowned co-father of deep learning, recruited a team of entrepreneurs, research scientists, developers, and clinical experts. They began exploring applications in computer vision and the quantitative mapping of clinical information to bring the power of deep learning to digitized health data and the company Imagia was born.
Meet the Dynamic Leader
Frédéric Francis was brought on board at Imagia to lead as Chief Executive Officer. With over 15 years of experience in medical imaging and image-guidance oncology applications, Fred has a deep affinity for innovation and has been instrumental in driving growth in high tech startups. “I was especially impressed and motivated by the possibility of AI-driven personalized health and precision medicine – the work that we are doing at Imagia has the potential to transform patient health and continuum of care as we know it today.”
Prior to joining Imagia, Fred was the CEO of Harmonic Medical, developer of next-generation focused ultrasound therapy for uterine fibroids and bone cancer metastasis. In 2000, he co-founded and was CEO of Resonant Medical, a leader in 3D ultrasound image-guidance for prostate and breast cancer radiotherapy, which was successfully sold to Elekta. He previously co-founded Lateral Logic (now CM-Labs), a pioneer in real-time rigid-body dynamics for visual simulation and virtual prototyping, whose physics software is still being used by major simulation and robotics company and academic research groups. He holds a BSc in Physics from McGill University.
Fred is a results-driven businessman with proven leadership qualities, strong communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills. He is especially motivated by opportunities requiring highly strategic thinking, creative decision-making and hands-on implementation in rapidly evolving entrepreneurial environments.
Driving Healthcare Collaboration with Deep Learning
Fred believes one of the most significant challenges in healthcare and the life sciences is data-related value creation. There is a wealth of unstructured healthcare data from fragmented sources that sits siloed within hospitals, administrative systems, and device databases, thereby delaying access to research and analytics. Developing robust AI-driven healthcare solutions requires access to large data sets collected across multiple institutes.
Imagia developed EVIDENS, a unique AI discovery platform that facilitates large scale, multidisciplinary collaboration through federated learning. It empowers researchers so they can interact directly with AI models that allow for automated data cohorting and labelling processes. It is an ecosystem that pairs artificial intelligence with clinical expertise and aligns the learning from partner hospitals and AI research institutions while addressing critical data privacy and regulatory concerns.
EVIDENS transforms routine clinical patient data into outcome-based structured information and protects both the patient data as well as institutional data ownership. It eliminates the process of filtering, transforming or reworking millions of unstructured data points in order to make current clinical data sources usable for AI research. It also provides an additional layer of predictive information, making it appropriate for AI biomarker discovery from assessing survival rate, the potential response to treatment, or the prediction of side effects.
A significant benefit of EVIDENS is that it is purpose designed to help clinical researchers and healthcare partners use AI to power discovery at scale without needing to be AI experts. Importantly, it allows non-AI experts to do so in a regulatory, compliant, and scalable manner.
Accelerating Drug Discovery
EVIDENS fuses a critical link that encourages and accelerates existing and new drug discovery research by deploying advanced AI technology to harness the data and automate the process. The ecosystem unites a breadth of stakeholders with domain-specific expertise in complementary areas of AI, clinical research, genomics, drug discovery and medical devices, to facilitate the discovery-to-delivery model. Imagia fosters commercial partnerships with healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers to enable these breakthroughs in personalized healthcare in a collaborative, multi-institutional setting.
The ultimate goal is improving patient continuum of care and overall population health. Imagia’s initial focus has been in Oncology but the potential for the company’s work in healthcare and patient care improvement can extend far beyond the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
If patients’ journeys are optimized by analyzing individual characteristics found throughout their entire patient data record instead of merely a few precision attributes of their disease, physicians will be better equipped to improve outcomes for all patients at every stage of their care. AI biomarkers, clinical decision support systems and predictive analytics have the potential to help physicians make faster, less expensive and better data-driven care decisions to allow more patients to benefit from better outcomes.
Overall, this leads to operational, clinical and healthcare efficiencies by shortening time to disease diagnosis and mitigating gaps in treatment by allowing for timely, appropriate therapy and preventative procedures. The future of AI-driven results is very promising.
Innovation to the Core
Imagia is engaged with clinicians from world-class research institutes as well as category-leading pharma and medical device companies to co-develop healthcare AI solutions. In May 2018, the company announced a landmark partnership with Olympus, a global technology leader in designing and delivering innovative solutions for medical and surgical procedures. Imagia is co-developing their first-of-its-kind colonoscopy clinical decision support module – a potential significant benefit to patients by enabling physicians to better predict polyp histology in real-time.
The partnership with Olympus represents the first time an AI biomarker has been demonstrated clinically in gastroenterology. On the diagnostic and screening front, it is envisioned that AI-based insights will help eliminate unnecessary escalation of expensive tests and when they are performed, provide additional confirmation to improve accuracy. In colorectal cancer, as an example, real-time video analysis classifies malignant and benign polyps. On the care trajectory, this will facilitate the selection of the appropriate treatments for each patient and has the potential to mitigate gaps in treatment outcomes, ultimately increasing the probability of a favorable treatment response.
Fred also commented that “Imagia has been able to progress from development to active R&D to commercial agreement with a fully integrated system within 18 months. We are excited about the potential of its clinical AI solution to promote paradigm shifts in the standard of care for endoscopic procedures”.
Overcoming Business Challenges
EVIDENS uses AI as the interacting mechanism between data and experts and there are challenges associated with that. Healthcare data is primarily patient-centric and organized for routine clinical access, not structured in an AI-friendly format for outcome-based investigations. In addition, single hospital datasets are typically not adequate on their own to allow AI-driven discovery processes in precision medicine, while privacy regulations make multi-center collaborations prohibitive. Lastly, clinicians rarely possess the practical computer science knowledge necessary to develop AI solutions despite being the healthcare subject experts.
Through EVIDENS, Imagia is able to address these challenges and is expanding the scope of what is possible by putting clinical experts in the driver seat and enabling them to develop the AI solutions that best address needs.
Revolutionizing AI-Driven Personalized Healthcare
“Traditional AI companies have focused on tools with a narrow indication and capability. The most advanced solutions are in the area of detection and classification models that support patient screening, preventative health programs and help trigger disease diagnosis. That type of AI is comparable to a productivity tool and does bring value in the continuum of care. However, Imagia operates in a different place,” according to Fred.
The platform uses natural language processing and cognitive computing to structure hospital data for easy cohort assembly without manual curation. To lower the cost of multi-center collaborations and scale-up of the discovery process in personalized healthcare, EVIDENS facilitates access through federated AI learning, while preserving data anonymity and ensuring data traceability for patient privacy and regulatory compliance through all the proper channels (e.g. HIPAA/HITECH).
Importantly, it is the experts that interact with the AI for both explainability and biostatistical assessment of potential discovery candidates. Imagia can focus on advancing AI architectures while benefiting from clinical expertise in multiple clinical indications and settings beyond anything any company could achieve in-house. The platform provides the outcome-based structured clinical data foundations and federated learning capabilities across multiple sources and researchers to truly enable AI-driven biomarker discovery at scale. These can unlock numerous healthcare efficiencies, including the potential to sharpen clinical trial stratification, augment existing molecular companion diagnostics with tangible benefits from patient screening, diagnosis accuracy to appropriate treatment choices and follow up monitoring.
As the adoption of new AI solutions in health and life sciences are accelerated, ground breaking discoveries are possible. All things taken together, Imagia’s EVIDENS is a robust and collaborative ecosystem that gives hospitals, medical device makers, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic companies the opportunity to tap into a vast clinical network and the ability to unleash the full potential of personalized healthcare.