How a leading US medical university is working with industry to drive innovation for life science businesses in Charleston, SCInnovation and life sciences are growing rapidly in South Carolina see more
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Investment Monitor spoke to Jesse Goodwin, PhD, chief innovation officer at the Medical University of South Carolina, to find out how the institution is collaborating with industry partners to grow within, and alongside, the life science sector in Charleston, SC.
The Charleston region has a lot to offer life science companies, including access to talent at the oldest medical school in the South. Located in downtown Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) was founded in 1824 and has maintained a dedication to serving the state through education, research and patient care from the very beginning. However, there is a fourth pillar that makes MUSC a nationally recognised institution and a key partner within Charleston’s life sciences ecosystem – and that is innovation.
Patent covers medical technology, BlueDocAI™, that improves analysis of chest x-rays to faster detec see more
Blue Eye Soft is excited to announce that the U.S. Patent Office has officially awarded a utility patent for the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology which powers a clinical decision support tool that analyzes chest x-rays to more rapidly detect COVID-19, and other illness such as cancer, developing in lungs.
Founder and CEO of Blue Eye Soft, Srikanth Kodeboyina, helped developed BlueDocAI™ in collaboration with University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “This patent award is a significant milestone for our company and we want to thank UDRI for their constant collaboration and support for many years,” said Kodeboyina. “Our proprietary technology, protected by this issued keystone patent, provides our product with a competitive advantage. Especially in areas with scarcity of trained radiologists, we’re excited that our technology will be able to efficiently detect illnesses in an automated way with a limited set of COVID-19 images.”
Blue Eye Soft is a graduate company of Innosphere Ventures’ incubation program that accelerates the success of technical founders and supports the commercialization efforts of science and technology companies.
Blue Eye Soft is notably known for taking different models of algorithms with limited data to detect illnesses faster compared to current technology in the field. BlueDocAI™ is robust for implementing a transfer to transfer learning approach, which takes data sets such as images of lung cancer and COVID-19 and breaks them down into “mini” data sets. This enables the program to detect the illness faster and deliver a diagnoses in a timely manner to radiologists and healthcare industries.
“The award of this patent is another significant step in getting this important new technology into the hands of healthcare providers,” said John Leland, vice president for research at the University of Dayton. “We congratulate Blue Eye Soft and we’re confident in their ability to bring BlueDocAI to market soon.”
Blue Eye Soft Corp. is a company that provides its own patented clinical artificial intelligence support tool, BlueDocAITM which uses AI-driven- deep learning algorithms to assist radiologists and other health care professionals with fast and accurate diagnoses of different illnesses.
Innosphere accelerates the success of science and technology-based startups through its unique accelerator and commercialization programs, specialized laboratory facilities, and venture capital fund. Innosphere has supported founders and CEOs building high-tech companies for 24 years and is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a strong mission to grow the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Prisma aligns with Siemens Healthineers see more
Prisma Health is entering a 10-year partnership with German technology company Siemens to become more efficient and improve patient care, the companies announced June 22.
Prisma staff members will work with technology experts from the Siemens Healthineers division to evaluate how the company uses technology to treat patients, including the use of artificial intelligence.
Prisma Health, the state’s largest hospital system, needs to keep improving how it works as the challenges of health care, from rising costs to keeping a trained workforce, keep mounting, Prisma Health CEO Mark O’Halla said.
“We have to get better — better outcomes and cheaper,” O’Halla said.
One of the roles that technology can play is to make work more efficient for the staff, both through better systems and training, said Dave Pacitti, president for the Americas of Siemens Healthineers, the health care tech portion of the German engineering giant.
That should bring more time for clinical staff to treat patients, he said.
No financial terms of the 10-year partnership were disclosed, but Pacitti said it is his company’s largest partnership with a health care provider.
Artificial intelligence will be used to study how Prisma Health is treating patients by analyzing the collected data with no names of patients attached, O’Halla said.
AI also will be able to help care for individual patients, Pacitti said. One example: an AI system can work in the background as a doctor or other staff members examine computer images from a scan, looking to highlight areas on the image that that need more scrutiny.
The deal will include adding more modern diagnostic equipment from Siemens and making sure that the systems are deployed around the state in the most efficient way possible, O’Halla said.
For Siemens, the deal will provide direct clinical feedback on how its systems work in medical offices.
Prisma Health operates 18 hospitals, including the former Palmetto Health system in the Midlands. Headquartered in Greenville, it employs more than 30,000 staff members.
Nephron's Lou Kennedy making a big impact on industry see more
Courtesy of SC Manufacturing
Drug shortages have plagued the health care system for decades. Even prior to COVID-19, hospitals incurred more than $400 million in labor costs and alternative treatment options due to national generic drug shortages, especially for those administered via injection.
More important, research shows shortages lead to adverse patient outcomes – things like delaying critical procedures, rationing doses based on supply levels and prescribing suboptimal treatment plans with substitute drugs.
Manufacturing tops the list as the most common cause of shortages, pushing those in the pharmaceutical supply chain to look for new ways to increase productivity – and thanks to a partnership between Clemson University and Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a solution may be on the horizon.
Led by Dr. Yue “Sophie” Wang, the ambitious project combines robotics and medicine to ensure sterility, quality, safety and efficiency in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The team worked in partnership with South Carolina-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation to develop a flexible, easy to use, open-source benchtop robot that can fill, cap and seal sterile syringes.
“Pharmaceutical collaborative robots is a new and quickly growing research area,” said Wang, who serves as the Warren H. Owen Duke Energy Associate Professor of Engineering at Clemson University. “By combining our expertise with unique applications in pharmaceutical manufacturing, we hope to benefit both patients and the industry through increased efficiency in syringe manufacturing.”
The project supports the Nephron 503B Outsourcing Facility, a cGMP manufacturer providing sterile, pre-filled medications to address persistent drug shortages in hospitals and medical facilities across America. Pre-filled syringes help control costs by minimizing drug overfill and minimizing microbial contamination. Without robotics, filling these syringes is a delicate, highly regulated process completed by specialized technicians under laminar airflow hoods in ISO classified clean rooms to keep their work environments sterile.
It can take up to five employees a day per hood to meet the incredible demand for pre-filled syringes at Nephron. Unlike humans, robots don’t get tired, offering advantages in quality control, production planning and compliance.
Technicians can then be re-deployed for higher value functions that let them improve their skills, experience and pay, said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy.
“Anything we can do to improve drug shortages, that’s just good for patients,” she added. “It’s a very big crisis, not just in the U.S. but globally as well.”
The next phase of the project is further development, starting with the completion of a purpose-built clean room on Clemson’s campus. Kennedy hopes to commercialize the benchtop system for use inside healthcare facilities across the country.
“Hospitals often have two or three pharmacists working the phones every day searching for the drugs they need,” said Kennedy. “You don’t go to school for eight years to spend your day on the phone looking for product.”
Partnering for change
Clemson and Nephron are at the forefront of a larger trend shaping pharmaceutical manufacturing today. The integration of automation, AI and robotics are catalyzing the industry, and rising demand paired with major market disruptions such as COVID-19 are only accelerating change. The pharmaceutical robotic systems market is expected to nearly double to $119.46 million from just five years ago, driven by innovations in packaging, inspection and lab work, according to one report.
Part of what has made the project successful is the complementary strengths Nephron and Clemson brought to the table. Wang needed an insider’s perspective on pharmaceutical manufacturing to understand the exact requirements and processes involved in sterile syringe production.
Based in West Columbia, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and one of the fastest-growing companies in South Carolina. The partnership was developed through External Affairs’ Office of Corporate Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at Clemson University.
“As a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, Nephron is the perfect partner for specialized, high-impact research to improve health outcomes for patients,” said Angie Leidinger, Clemson’s vice president for External Affairs. “Thanks to our partners, our breakthrough research continues to build Clemson’s and South Carolina’s reputation for leadership in both advanced manufacturing and life sciences.”
In addition to Clemson’s world-class research talent, Nephron was also drawn to the University’s steady stream of talented graduates that could hit the ground running at their facilities.
“We’re a young company and want to play a role in developing all of this great talent we have around us,” said Kennedy. “I decided it was time to put game day feelings aside and look at where our talent was really coming from.”
Women taking the lead
Like most STEM industries, women continue to be a minority in the pharmaceutical manufacturing workforce, at 42.3 percent of total employment. If the partnership between Clemson and Nephron is any indication, that gap could be shrinking fast.
With Kennedy at the helm, Nephron is a certified woman-owned business and boasts a 53 percent female workforce. Ratios like that are unheard of in our industry, she says. It’s only fitting that project leadership from the Clemson side is female.
Clemson is home to many groundbreaking women in the industry, including Martine LaBerge as chair of the Department of Bioengineering, Saara DeWalt as chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Delphine Dean as the Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Professor, among many others. Dean is also a key researcher and first line of defense in the University’s response to the global pandemic.
“It’s so pleasant to see women thriving in STEM careers,” said Kennedy.
Blue Eye Soft launches AI-driven imaging software see more
Blue Eye Soft, an innovative IT-solutions and software development company, announced that it has received acknowledgment from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its pre-submission package for its proprietary artificial intelligence (AI)-driven medical imaging software, BluedocaiTM, to assist with the medical diagnosis of diseases such as COVID-19, said a press release issued by the company.
BluedocaiTM is a clinical decision support tool that uses AI-driven deep learning algorithms to assist radiologists and other healthcare professionals with fast and accurate diagnosis of diseases, such as COVID-19. BluedocaiTM has the capability to rapidly analyze chest X-rays to detect the presence of COVID-19 with >90% accuracy and may therefore help improve the efficiency and accuracy of radiology departments in the wake of the overwhelming workload caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.1
BluedocaiTM is also under development to support the medical diagnosis of other diseases such as pneumonia, pneumothorax, tuberculosis, cancer, and stroke. BluedocaiTM has the potential to be used with a variety of medical imaging technologies across different hospital settings and locations. The pioneering technology behind BluedocaiTM is based on well-established medical image processing research of Russell C Hardie, PhD and Barath Narayanan, PhD from University of Dayton, Ohio and is currently exclusively licensed by Blue Eye Soft.
In addition, Blue Eye Soft has announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security has granted the commodity classification number (ECCN ) for BluedocaiTM, clearing the pathway for Blue Eye Soft to international export. The Blue Eye Soft team believes this is an important step forward for a company rooted in South Carolina to be able to export locally developed AI-powered diagnostic technology beyond the United States with potential reach-out from around 16 countries. Srikanth Kodeboyina, CEO of Blue Eye Soft said, “Our team at Blue Eye Soft is looking forward to serving as a pivotal partner for radiology departments worldwide, helping them deliver precise and high-value patient care — even in the challenging times of this ongoing pandemic.”
Following the commodity classification of BluedocaiTM, Blue Eye Soft is awaiting FDA approval of its submission for use in clinical settings and topline readouts from ongoing BluedocaiTM pivotal trials.
There is a constant unmet need in radiology departments as imaging data continue to grow exponentially when compared with the number of available trained readers.2 AI-driven medical imaging tools have the potential to transform radiology departments in terms of enhanced productivity, increased diagnostic accuracy, more personalized treatment planning, and ultimately, improved clinical outcomes.2,3 The general principle behind AI-driven medical imaging tools is the ability to rapidly and accurately quantify and provide assessments based on the radiographic characteristics from images using deep-learning algorithms.2,3
Blue Eye Soft, a multinational corporation of South Carolina Research Authority SC Launch, U.S. Air Force Research Labs CSA cohort, and Innosphere Ventures client company, has paired its AI and computer-aided detection expertise with its fast-moving and innovative market approach to solve problems for commercial and government defense departments worldwide, the press release said.
AI efforts to fall under Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for Science and Engineering see more
Clemson University is consolidating its ongoing and future artificial intelligence research and education initiatives under one umbrella: the Clemson Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for Science and Engineering.
Eighty faculty members, including some researchers who have used and researched AI for years, will work under the umbrella organization, which also will spearhead STEM workforce development projects at the school to strengthen skills in science, technology, engineering and math, according to a news release. The move follows a presidential executive order last year that called for intensified AI training across the country, which led Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon to establish AI labs.
“AI is pervasive now, and we have to prepare our students for a different world,” professor Mitch Shue, executive director of AIRISE, said in the news release. “Combining all of Clemson’s resources in one institute will help us recruit top students and faculty and better compete for federal grants that fund cutting-edge research.”
Feng Luo, AIRISE’s director and founder, hopes the institute will help open new opportunities for Clemson students to meet mounting demand in the field.
“The requirement for AI from industry has dramatically increased. When a company has data, it wants to make sense of the data, and AI is one of the ways to help them,” Luo said in the release. He is also a computer science professor.
One of Luo’s earlier AI projects included an initiative to help quell citrus-greening disease with a $4.3 million federal grant, according to the release. Other studies undertaken by Clemson researchers include deploying a cyber attack defense system for autonomous vehicles, inspecting vehicles on an assembly line for defects and earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
“With AIRISE, Clemson will be well-positioned to play a key role in conducting cutting-edge research and creating the STEM workforce of the future,” Amy Apon, director of Clemson’s School of Computing, said in the release. “We have a real opportunity to help enhance economic development and U.S. competitiveness.”