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The Rapid Rise of the Machines

Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Medical and Healthcare Industries

Just about every industry is experiencing a dramatic evolution with the sudden rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Healthcare and pharmaceuticals are no different.

As we recently wrote, the area of oncology is showing promising applications of AI. Google’s DeepMind has been working with researchers at University College London (UCL) to develop an AI system that can help doctors detect and diagnose liver cancer earlier. The system uses machine learning algorithms to analyze medical images of the liver and identify early signs of cancer. The AI system has been trained on thousands of images of the liver, including images of healthy tissue and images of liver cancer.

The system works by analyzing the images of the liver and identifying patterns that are associated with cancer. It can detect tiny changes in the liver tissue that may not be visible to the human eye. This allows doctors to diagnose liver cancer at an earlier stage, when it is more treatable.

Speed is of the essence, when it comes to detecting and treating cancers, of course. Though some may fear the quick proliferation of AI in various walks of life, the medical field is one in which we should embrace change and celebrate advances. If something can’t be done by humans at the necessary scale or speed, by all means let’s augment human capacity with artificial intelligence.

Using computers and massive data sets to tease out conclusions one wouldn’t be able to otherwise see can reveal life-saving  associations that aren’t readily apparent. AI systems built into products like diabetes management systems enable sensors that can detect blood glucose levels and send messages to insulin pumps so that they automatically give the body the insulin it needs.

In a way, you might say that we’ve been relying on smart “machines” like these for years. It is just now becoming more apparent what the potential will be for these innovations, as AI gets smarter, grows more sophisticated, and becomes central to industries that span the globe.

What Does the Future Hold for AI?

It is exciting for inventors to consider how AI might assist them with product development and concept ideation. A company like my client, Alertgy, is a prime example of this. (DISCLOSURE: I am an investor in this company.)

Alertgy is a medical technology company that specializes in developing innovative solutions for continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). Founded in 2016 by Marc Rippen, the company aims to improve the lives of people living with diabetes by offering a non-invasive and accurate method to monitor their blood sugar levels in real-time. Its flagship product, the Alertgy Deep-Gluco CGM wristband, is a wearable device that uses proprietary and patented technology to measure glucose levels in the user’s blood without requiring any needle pricks or insertion of sensors. The device is paired with a mobile app, which provides users with real-time data, trend analysis supported by AI and alerts for high or low glucose levels. Alertgy’s non-invasive approach to glucose monitoring has the potential to revolutionize diabetes management by providing a more convenient and comfortable alternative to traditional CGM systems.

If you know anyone that struggles with diabetes, you likely understand just how transformative such technology would be. And it relies strongly on machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver this innovation to patients in need.

It is innovation like this that makes one ponder, Where else can AI be applied to improve healthcare delivery and medical outcomes? No doubt, hospitals are exploring ways to integrate AI tools to use for patient diagnostics to automatically send alerts to warn doctors of critical emergencies. “AI in healthcare is expected to play a major role in redefining the way we process healthcare data, diagnose diseases, develop treatments and even prevent them altogether,” writes Steve Barth of Foresee Medical.

MIT reports that scientists and healthcare providers are using AI and old reports to understand new medical images:

“Although the idea of utilizing computers to interpret images is not new, the MIT-led group is drawing on an underused resource — the vast body of radiology reports that accompany medical images, written by radiologists in routine clinical practice — to improve the interpretive abilities of machine learning algorithms. The team is also utilizing a concept from information theory called mutual information — a statistical measure of the interdependence of two different variables — in order to boost the effectiveness of their approach.”

In the pharmaceutical industry, researchers are encouraged and are eagerly pursuing the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to assist in — and speed up — the development and testing of drugs that can save and improve lives. According to one academic journal:

The global spread of COVID-19 has raised the importance of pharmaceutical drug development as intractable and hot research. Developing new drug molecules to overcome any disease is a costly and lengthy process, but the process continues uninterrupted. The critical point to consider the drug design is to use the available data resources and to find new and novel leads. Once the drug target is identified, several interdisciplinary areas work together with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) methods to get enriched drugs.

Returning to the treatment of liver cancer, for example, new research uses something called AlphaFold, an AI-powered protein structure database, to accelerate the design and synthesis of a drug to treat the most common type of primary liver cancer. It is the first successful application of AlphaFold to the “hit identification” process in drug discovery. The goal of hit identification, also known as hit-finding or hit discovery, is to deliver a compound with confirmed activity against a biological target. It looks for active sites on a substance to which a target compound of a particular size and structure could bind and potentially affect activity of the substance. This target compound is called a “hit” and is often the starting point for chemistry activities.

As AI technology continues to develop, we can expect to see more exciting advances in healthcare and medicine.

Fear Not, Artificial Intelligence Is Here to Stay

Our advice is to resist fearing the worst when it comes to the “rise of the machines” and the proliferation of artificial intelligence. What we are seeing today is more so an accelerated rate of change, as opposed to a sudden sea change.

We work with inventors all over the world — the curious, the innovators, those who embrace evolution (and even revolution, at times). History will continue to press forward, and AI along with it. Better than asking oneself, “What can I do about the emergence of AI,” we should be asking, “What can I do with AI?” Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back in. And make no mistake about it, the genie left the bottle in earnest in early 2023, and shows no signs of slowing down. To us, this is exciting.

Yes, it’s important to maximize and welcome the benefits of new technologies like AI. But we must also be responsible stewards and be mindful of the risks of AI. I trust that innovators will make mistakes along the way, but I am equally confident that they can work together to minimize the negative aspects that might come as we continue to find our way.

Crowley Law LLC celebrates advances in science and technology that can lead to improved quality of life for millions of people.  We are focused on helping life sciences and other technology entrepreneurs realize their dreams by avoiding costly legal and strategic mistakes as they move forward with development.  If you are pursuing a development in the life sciences or other technologies and are wondering what to do to move forward, contact us at (908) 663-8253 to arrange for a discussion with one of our team members.  We’re here to help.



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