FFEI joins ground-breaking medical imaging project

FFEI joins ground-breaking medical imaging project as the North receives £10m government investment for AI and digital pathology

Leeds researchers have been awarded a £10.1m investment from UK Research and Innovation to expand a digital pathology and artificial intelligence programme across the North of England.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), announced the investment on Tuesday 6 November, as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

FFEI Limited welcomed the announcement of national funding which will allow the creation of a digital pathology clinical network and research programme.

The successful partnership bid, led by the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals, includes FFEI in a network of nine NHS hospitals, seven universities and ten industry-leading medical technology companies, called the Northern Pathology Imaging Co-operative (NPIC).

The investment of £10.1m from UK Research and Innovation is boosted by an initial investment of £7m from the companies involved in the programme.

The consortium is now set to become a globally-leading centre for applying artificial intelligence (AI) research to cancer diagnosis.

Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This is a really exciting step for patients because computers using artificial intelligence can be trained to recognise the patterns of disease. Machines will support clinically trained pathologists to diagnose cancer faster, better and at lower cost.

“We can also explore how to use digital pathology as part of precision medicine to ensure patients receive treatments tailored to their disease. This is a huge opportunity for Yorkshire to lead in this new area and further enhance our position as a hub for medical technology.”

Andy Cook, MD of FFEI Limited, said: “As innovators of digital medical technology and a UK-based SME, FFEI are delighted to join this consortium to revolutionise healthcare in the UK. As AI becomes increasingly relevant in modern life, it is our aim to adapt, adopt and advance our technology to facilitate the most accurate and reliable methods in medical AI.”

“Through activites such as this project, FFEI will create world-leading digital pathology and medical imaging products and therefore provide the most efficient and effective diagnostic tools for increased patient welfare”

NPIC will put new digital pathology scanners into a network of northern NHS hospitals, including all of the hospitals across West Yorkshire and Harrogate, to gather digital pathology images for training AI systems. This will generate about 760,000 images per year, about 1.2 Petabytes of data.

The project also aims to develop more integrated ways of working across regional clinical pathology services including elements of image quality control and standardisation methodology, in which FFEI have expertise and which is essential for integrative telepathology networks and reliable interpretation of medical imaging by AI.

Clinicians will then work with industry and academic researchers to make new AI systems capable of analysing digital pathology images leading to better diagnoses for diseases like cancer.

The work will stimulate AI research nationally in academic and business sectors, creating jobs and supporting economic growth.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Early diagnosis of illness can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and save lives.

“The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images varying from x-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis.”

Dr Darren Treanor, a Pathologist at the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is leading the project. Speaking at the Alan Turing Institute, he said: “Digital pathology is a technology with a huge potential to improve healthcare.

“This new northern co-operative will allow us to use digital pathology to help patients across the region, and provide a platform on which we will develop artificial intelligence tools for pathology diagnosis to be used around the world.”

A key part of the project is to consider the ethics of data sharing to ensure NPIC partners abide by the highest professional standards when images are utilised for research purposes.

NPIC will engage patients and the public in a programme of work about the use of anonymised images for AI research. It will also inform the development of a ‘national pathology exchange’ – software that allows images to be shared between NHS sites nationally so that patients can benefit from second opinions from anywhere in the UK.

NPIC members

The Northern Pathology Imaging Co-operative (NPIC) is led by the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Its 26 members include FFEI Limited, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, Heterogenius Limited, Microsoft Limited, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Sectra Limited, Newcastle University, Roche Diagnostics Limited, University of Sheffield, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, Clinisys Group Limited, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, X-Lab Limited, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, mTuitive UK Limited, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Futamura Chemical UK Limited and Leica Biosystems Limited.

FFEI Limited

FFEI has an impressive reputation for developing innovative and award-winning life science and digital inkjet solutions – from concept to delivery.  Most importantly, FFEI works closely with partners and customers to ensure their market knowledge is transformed into the digital imaging system they need to meet their bespoke requirements.

FFEI is a leading integrator and manufacturer of digital life science technology. We are known for our highly innovative and advanced product solutions, which have consequently attracted joint ventures with some of the world’s leading organisations in this sector.

Whether the challenge is to create software functions to enhance workflow; accurately jet billions of ink droplets a second on to exotic materials; or create ultra-high resolution WSI scanners for digital pathology – FFEI has the capability.

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)

UKRI is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.

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