Increasing the early detection of cardiovascular disease with an innovative AI solution

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes a quarter of all deaths in the UK[1] and disproportionately affects people living in lower-income areas. The North East in particular has some of the highest rates of CVD morbidity, in the country.

If detected and treated early enough, CVD is largely preventable and it has been identified as the single biggest area where the NHS can save lives over the next 10 years.

Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria (HI NENC) has been supporting an innovative solution with the potential to do this. Aiatella is a medical device that uses artificial intelligence (AI), to automate the most time-consuming and complex parts of the analysis of a scan. The innovation was co-founded by chief executive, Jack Parker (pictured below) and chief technology officer, Onni Eriksson.

Aiatella is currently set up to focus on cardiovascular scans, with the potential to be adapted to other areas of the body in the future.

A scan is the only conclusive way to identify disease within a patient, by analysing the blood vessels throughout the body, including the aorta. Diseases associated with the aorta are very rarely found in time and can lead to serious, life-threatening complications, which are only treatable through surgery.

Traditionally, the process following the scan requires a highly specialised doctor to manually check for disease in hundreds of images per patient and make multiple, manual measurements. This process is extremely time-consuming, making it a key target for automation and AI.

After undergoing a proof-of-concept study at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Aiatella was found to perform this process over 100 times faster than a doctor with a higher level of accuracy.

By speeding up the process of analysis following a cardiovascular scan, the AI can help doctors better allocate their time and cut the ever-growing backlog of patients, waiting for this type of scan.

The longer a patient lives with untreated CVD, the higher their risk is of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Aiatella has the potential to save lives and improve patient outcomes for those at risk of CVD, by increasing the early detection of the condition before it becomes life-threatening.

Jack who grew up in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne said: “I’m proud to be from the North East and spent time around the region during my education and training. The initial evaluation of my innovation was done with some of the NHS contacts I already knew. CVDs are a real issue in this region so I am really keen to get this working in our region first to help as many people as we can.”

While working on the innovation, Jack’s own father suffered from a heart attack. Witnessing first-hand the devasting impact CVDs can have on patients and their families, reinforced the importance of this innovation and its ability to catch CVDs early.

Talking about the moment that prompted him to explore the innovation route, Jack said: “One of my mentors said, ‘If you want to save 100 lives, then continue your education and be the surgeon. If you want to potentially save millions, then you need to solve a problem.’ So that was the motivation that planted the seed.”

Aiatella has the potential to do just that, by firstly helping doctors cut down the backlog of patients waiting to be diagnosed. And then enabling the identification of CVDs long before they lead to a heart attack or stroke.

HI NENC have supported Aiatella by providing advice and guidance on intellectual property (IP), value proposition generation, and evidence gathering, which can be used to apply for funding opportunities.

Iain Taylor, Programme Manager at HI NENC, said: “We offer a range of targeted services through our Innovation Pathway to help innovators like Jack develop their ideas into the NHS.  The next step on Aiatella’s journey is to demonstrate how big of an impact it can make on healthcare in our NHS and around the world. They will enter into a multi-center, international pilot study early next year.”

If you are an innovator looking to enter the healthcare market, please get in touch to find out about the support HI NENC can offer.

HI NENC specialises in providing expert help and guidance for innovators looking to market products or services in health or care services. They provide support to NHS or industry innovators across the region and are also leading the Healthtech sector as part of the Digital Cluster North of Tyne Programme for businesses in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. This project is delivered in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork and Dynamo North East and funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

[1] NHS https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/areas-of-work/cardiovascular-disease/ [Accessed October 2023]