On 8 December 2020, Bern-based RetinAI Medical AG announced the execution of a long-term agreement with the pharmaceutical giant Novartis. The project will support several ophthalmology and digital health projects undertaken by Novartis that will exploit IT solutions and AI tools created by RetinAI. This will not be the first collaboration between the AI developer and the pharma leader.
What we know about the agreement
The project will initially focus on a study of age-related neovascular macular degeneration (nAMD). It will involve more than 500 patients in several clinics in Europe and Canada and will explore the influence of optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging solutions, with the assessment of disease progression being determined by the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
RetinAI brings AI into the study
RetinAI will be a vital participant in the study by contributing its RetinAI Discovery (R) platform. This web-based, CE-marked software platform manages data with optimal processing and is capable of scaling across multiple platforms and imaging devices. The software is already in use by healthcare professionals around the world who, thanks to Discovery, are able to manage and process imaging data, track changes over specific time periods and calculate imaging biomarkers for common eye diseases. The tool has proven its value in the field by enabling professionals to better manage diagnostic analyses, clinical workflows, patient follow-up and treatment acceptance.
The shared vision of Novartis and RetinAI
According to Dirk Sauer, Head of Global Ophthalmic Franchise Development at Novartis Pharma AG, the pharmaceutical giant has realised the power of RetinAI in developing digital solutions to advance eye care.
He says: ” With previous projects, RetinAI’s services have enabled us to improve and structure retina scanners and the data collected in our clinical studies more efficiently”. He went on to explain that this collaboration is intended to create comprehensive solutions that will provide a rapid and complete overview of the disease, ultimately leading to the optimisation of treatment and thus improved patient outcomes.
Dr. Carlos Ciller, CEO of RetinAI, says: “RetinAI is excited to expand and intensify its partnership with Novartis and we clearly see the value that RetinAI can bring to Novartis”. He went on to explain how the company’s ” Discovery Platform and AI tools are helping to increase the efficiency of research and clinical studies and we believe they can also improve medicines and treatments for patients”.
What is RetinAI Discovery?
The RetinAI Discovery software has been developed to assist trained healthcare professionals such as physicians, ophthalmologists, opticians, clinicians and researchers in their management of medical images and data. The tool differentiates itself by removing the technological limitations that make it possible to search, share, display, navigate, process and classify data with a single keystroke.
The platform, which is both simple to use and easy to understand, allows healthcare professionals to access eye images and the corresponding electronic case report form (e-CRF) more quickly to speed up diagnosis and treatment plans.
Overview of RetinAI Medical AG
Based in Bern, Switzerland, the company was founded in 2017 and develops software solutions that are used to optimise workflows in medical settings through the use of advanced machine learning and computer vision. Through AI, the tools developed by RetinAI enable the collection, organisation and analysis of large amounts of health data. The medtech team is composed of clinical, technical and scientific experts who enable advances that go from reactive medicine to preventive medicine in cases of serious eye diseases.
Overview of Novartis
Founded in 1996, Novartis International AG is a leading multinational pharmaceutical company, also based in Switzerland. Employing more than 100,000 people and generating total revenues of USD 47.5 billion in 2019, Novartis is best known for many of the medicines it manufactures, including Clozaril, Voltaire, Tegretol, Diovan, Gleevec/Gilvec, Ritalin and Exjade, among others.
Novartis expands into the AI sector
In addition to its recent collaboration with RetinAI, Novartis has also entered into a five-year agreement with Microsoft in 2019. This partnership aims to create applications to improve Novartis’ drug development processes through an initiative called “Microsoft AI capabilities”.
Microsoft said at the time the agreement was announced that the technology giant wanted to “test the AI products it is already working on in real-life situations”. The aim of the collaboration was to develop solutions for organising and using the large datasets generated by Novartis’ laboratory experiments, clinical trials and manufacturing plants. The project also included plans to improve the manufacturing of Chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR) but also to implement AI to generative chemistry for the improvement of drug design.
Having already established the merits of Swiss companies joining forces through previous projects they had launched, RetinAI and Novartis will continue to work on ophthalmology and digital health to further develop solutions in this field. The initiative is expected to expand as a result of a multi-year agreement that was signed at the beginning of December last year.
RetinAI will provide its IT solutions and AI tools to Novartis to support the latter’s projects in the field of ophthalmology and digital health. The first step towards achieving this vision is a study that will focus on imaging the eye and how this can help assess the progression of one of many different eye diseases.
The study will be conducted using RetinAI’s Discovery software platform. With its ability to help professionals by optimising the way they locate, store and use data collected from patients with eye diseases, the programme offers faster access, which ultimately leads to faster diagnosis and therefore more effective treatment plans for better patient outcomes.
The two companies share the vision of a more prominent place in the field of digital ophthalmology following the completion of this initial study but also of all the other plans included in this promising agreement.