How this Hyderabad startup is using AI to speed up blood test reports
Entrepreneur Dr Junaid Shaik began learning programming languages to upskill himself during his second year of medical college. During that time, he developed a few apps and also got exposed to machine learning (ML) algorithms.
Realising the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ML, Dr Junaid decided to use the technology to solve problems in the healthcare sector.
[Image Credit: Livo.ai]
“Whenever a patient goes to a doctor for fever, cough, fatigue, or anything, the doctor would need to do a basic blood test for diagnosis. Now, in a blood test, there are two components. One is count, i.e., how many RBCs, WBCs, platelets one has and this part is now already fully automated. The second is morphology, the medical term for the structure. Not only the blood count, but the doctor also needs to know if the structure of blood cells are normal. In this case, the pathologist has to manually check the structure of the blood cells and also do a differential count of WBCs to diagnose abnormal cells using a microscope,” Dr. Junaid tells YourStory.
He explains that while the morphology test gives a detailed report on one’s blood test, it is completely manual, thus requiring expert pathologists to perform this test.
Identifying a gap in the blood testing segment, Dr Junaid Shaik and Faisal Sheikh launchedin 2018. The Hyderabad-based startup is solving this problem through its AI-powered robotic microscope, Livo A700.
According to the founders, the product automatically identifies and classifies the blood cells and produces high-quality images to help the pathologist with the morphology analysis.
Illustration: YS Design
Automating blood morphology
Speaking to YourStory, Dr Junaid explains that using Livo A700, all types of blood cells are already identified and pre-classified, and the report is then sent to the pathologist. This reduces the time of testing as the pathology doctor can now diagnose by reviewing the AI-generated report with high-quality cell images as evidence for the diagnosis.
The device also eliminates the need for the doctor to manually check the structure and do the differential count using the microscope.
“Usually, for manual analysis, the doctor would need at least five to ten minutes to review a blood sample and even more in case of suspected cancer cases. But in our case, the cells are already identified, pre-classified, and presented to the doctors. So the time for the review per case is down to only 10 seconds or less,” he explains.
With this, patients can get their blood analysis reports within a few minutes from the pathology labs instead of waiting for a day or two. They can also immediately visit their doctors and get started on the treatment.
Dr Junaid adds that physicians too can use this device to test the patient immediately during the consultation and start the treatment without any delay.
The AI-powered device can help healthcare workers detect any blood-related disorders such as leukemia, anemia, viral infections, bacterial infections, malaria, dengue, bone marrow activity, sickle cell syndrome among others within minutes and with accuracy.
The founder explains the startup had initially developed two models of the blood analyser -- a low-resolution, and a high-resolution model. While the low-resolution model worked within minutes, the high-resolution model produced the best quality images, but required really long time.
To solve this problem, Livo.ai had to work into the R&D for another year to finally built A700, which offers both the solutions - high-resolution images and images within few minutes.
Dr VS Aparna Akella from Cpath Labs, Hyderabad, who operated the device during the beta testing, explains, the technology will be especially useful in remote regions where expert pathologists and appropriate pathology labs might not be available. With the automated technology, healthcare workers can generate the report and send it to expert pathologists remotely and get the diagnosis done immediately.
She also explains that the technology helps in data storage, allowing the doctors to go back and analyse old reports for certain cases.
Image Credit: Livo.ai
Business and more
Dr Junaid informs that the product has now completed its clinical trials and has received CE and ISO certification for sale in Europe. Cleared for sale in India by CDSCO, the startup is looking to commercially launch the product in the second week of October.
Speaking about the business model, Dr Junaid explains that in order to ensure the technology is adopted across all the pathology labs, the solution needs to be cost-friendly. In a bid to ensure that it is affordable by the labs, Livo.ai will not sell the product but offer it on rental or subscription basis.
The pathology labs and doctors can get the product by paying about Rs 1 lakh deposit and a monthly subscription of Rs 10K to 15K. He claims that he already has 25 pre-orders in the pipeline.
According to a report by IBEF, India’s medical devices market stood at $11 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $65 billion in 2024. Other notable players such as SigTuple and Cellavision are also operating in this space.
The startup has raised seed funding from Anil Kumar, Dr Praveen Kumar, Dr Sudhir Manda from Arizona Oncology institute; Rajesh Manthena, Executive Director and Chief Development Officer at Cancer Centre’s of America; and Dr Jay Shah, Medical Director at Mayo Clinic
Livo.ai is also looking to expand its operations in Europe next year. It is aimed at having over 10,000 customers by 2023.
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