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02 April 2024

Seed funding granted to project seeking to boost AI-assisted healthcare

A King’s-led venture designed to help the UK navigate the path to AI-assisted healthcare has been awarded an initial grant to develop its proposal.

AI and healthcare

The project, named PharosAI, has received seed funding of £100,000 to develop its plans to create a platform for AI researchers and companies to access a broad spectrum of cancer-related datasets to train AI for healthcare settings.

The grant has been awarded as part of the Research Venture Catalyst Programme run by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) following an open call for proposals to establish new organisational models for tackling research challenges. The team behind PharosAI is made up of collaborators from King’s, Guy’s and St Thomas’s Trust (GSTT), and Bart’s Cancer Institute, Barts Health Trust. They are one of 12 teams who now have the opportunity to build on their initial pitch and submit an application for up to £25 million public investment in September.

The PharosAI initiative, led by King’s College London, will be a game-changer in terms of how we will be able to access complex clinical-valuable data, how we will swiftly evaluate and enable testing the deployment for AI-assisted healthcare. Being part of this new DSIT initiative, we are excited to bring together an excellent Consortium ranging from academia, public sector and industry.”

Professor Anita Grigoriadis, leader of the project and Head of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre

PharosAI’s core goal is to create a platform that will help researchers and companies develop, evaluate and deploy NHS-quality AI for cancer diagnostics. To do this, the project proposes to create a ‘data refinery’ sourced from more than 50,000 patient samples from King’s Health Partners Cancer Biobank and the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank. The data refinery will allow for the creation of bespoke ‘multimodal’ datasets to deliver advanced answers to clinical questions. A multimodal dataset is comprised of patient-centric information from a range of sources and can include pathology, radiology, clinical and genomics data. The combination of the individual datasets can provide extensive information of a patient’s disease.

At PharosAI these bespoke datasets will be specifically designed to build and test AI applications. The organisation will provide a platform for companies and researchers to build AI on these valuable datasets in a sandbox environment. In addition, the project will offer an AI clinical evaluation, deployment, standards validation services and educational programmes.

PharosAI will benefit the UK PLC by positioning the UK as a leader in multimodal precision medicine, by helping to address health inequality across the country, by improving workflow efficiency in the NHS through the implementation of faster and cost-effective personalised medicine and by attracting international life investment in our life sciences industry.”

Professor Anita Grigoriadis

We are facing a UK and global challenge in healthcare. The increase of complexity in tests and treatments and the decline in the health workforce worldwide is creating an unprecedented burden on healthcare systems."

Dr Gregory Verghese, Research Associate, Cancer Bioinformatics, King’s and Breast Cancer Now, Guy’s Hospital

Dr Gregory added: "The AI revolution presents an opportunity to tackle these challenges but currently the journey to develop and deploy AI applications into the NHS is too complex. Our goal is to simplify that journey with PharosAI, by providing the necessary data, tools, education and services to build high quality, safe and patient centric AI that will benefit the NHS, clinicians and ultimately revolutionise patient care.” 

The venture also includes a key educational pillar that leverages the new King’s Health Partners Digital Health Hub, the Guy’s Cancer Academy, and the King’s 20 Accelerator. The programme plans to deliver the next generation of pathologists, biomedical computer scientists, health entrepreneurs and clinicians for the NHS. An innovative ‘lend-me-the-expert’ talent sharing programme will be designed which will further fuel synergistic collaborations between all stakeholders.

PharosAI is currently in discussions with partners such as NHS England, UK Biobank, the Royal College of Pathologists, Genomics England, GSK, Paige and Google.

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