Israeli startup, Indian hospital join forces to bring AI imaging to India

Zebra Medical and HealthNet Global will collaborate on developing Zebra’s tech for the Indian market to screen for illnesses, including TB

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Israel's Zebra Medical and India's Apollo Hospitals Group are teaming up to bring AI-based medical diagnostics to Indian hospitals (Courtesy)
Israel's Zebra Medical and India's Apollo Hospitals Group are teaming up to bring AI-based medical diagnostics to Indian hospitals (Courtesy)

Israel’s Zebra Medical Vision, a startup that uses artificial intelligence technology to help read medical scans, will collaborate with an Indian hospital network to deploy its technology across the country and jointly develop applications suitable for the Indian market, including screening for tuberculosis.

Zebra Medical is partnering with HealthNet Global (HNG), part of the Apollo Hospitals Group, one of Asia’s largest healthcare groups with more than 70 hospitals and 200 care and diagnostic clinics. The partnership will focus on the development of an AI-based chest X-ray interpretation tool for TB which can help doctors better screen for the disease.

The World Health Organization estimates (PDF) that 3.6 million people with TB are missed by health systems every year and do not receive adequate care.

This is mainly because patients with TB may have mild or no symptoms, particularly early on. Many affected people arrive at clinics too late, with advanced or multi-drug resistant TB which is difficult to treat and more likely to cause death. One of the key strategies to tackling TB is early diagnosis. Unfortunately, the testing of spit is only 50 percent accurate and frequently misses the disease in its early stages.

Zebra Medical Vision CEO and co-founder Eyal Gura (Courtesy)

Zebra and HNG, will get support from the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F), set up last year to promote joint R&D projects for the $4.9 million project.

The grant will aid the partners in the development of an India-specific algorithm-based tool for patients across India and other emerging nations. The project will also modify existing algorithms to make them suitable for the Indian population, Zebra said in a statement on Wednesday.

The final jointly developed product “will help provide high quality radiology access to remote locations by alerting the presence of critical findings immediately. This will help provide timely, cost-effective, quality care to patients in remote and rural locations,” the statement said.

“When it comes to health, the promise of AI to provide access and improve outcomes in very intriguing,” said Sangita Reddy, the joint managing director of Apollo Hospitals, in the statement. “There is a critical need to provide good healthcare access in remote and rural communities, and we believe this initiative will allow us the opportunity to make significant advances in this area. Apollo’s clinical and scientific depth and Zebra-Med’s expertise in AI complement each other perfectly.”

As part of the collaboration, Zebra will be able to tap into the clinical facilities of the Apollo Hospitals network, and will work closely with local radiologists to bring their insights to the project. The hospitals will also be able to use the deep learning algorithms already developed by Zebra for the detection of other acute conditions such as brain bleeds in head CTs and pneumothorax in chest X-rays, breast cancer in mammograms, osteoporosis in CT scans, and 40 other conditions, Zebra said in a statement.

Eyal Gura, the co-founder and CEO of Zebra Medical, said the partnership with Apollo will help bring AI to India at a large scale.

“When we met the Indian team for the first time few years ago, we found common ground and similar dream of scaling healthcare from millions to billions of patients,” he said.

“We believe that this project will be a very important milestone in the introduction of AI in Indian healthcare. We are excited to provide clinical leadership and expertise to this initiative,” said Dr. Sreenivasa Raju Kalidindi, CEO and medical director of Apollo Radiology International, in the statement.

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