FathomX – Improving breast cancer screening through AI
FathomX is a digital health AI startup that started as a spin-off from the National University of Singapore and the National University Health System, that aims to develop a range of AI technologies in the field of breast cancer. The startup develops knowledge, capabilities and value through collaborations with research and healthcare institutions, deployment and teleradiology partners as well as picture archiving and communication systems (PACS).
Breast Cancer is one of the world’s top disease burdens and in many countries, it is the Number 1 killer among women. FathomX started out as a research project in a global competition – The Dream Challenge organised by the United States Whitehouse, to identify AI Technologies that could help enhance the clinical process of breast cancer screening.
As the top Asian team in the global Dream Challenge Competition, the founders Professor Mikael Hartman and Professor Feng Meng Ling decided to spin off the company with the support of NUS Enterprise. Since the competition, the AI model has progressed tremendously in its predictive accuracy, and refinement and users’ preferences are incorporated and continuously upgraded to meet differing and progressing needs. The solution is known as FxMammo™ and has been regulatory approved in Singapore and Thailand with more countries in the regulatory approval process. At the end of 2020, Stephen Lim got involved in FathomX to help the company develop a business plan and raised seed funds for regulatory applications. In mid-2022, Stephen came on board full-time as the Chief Executive Officer to lead the company in the next stage of development in commercialisation.
As any other deep tech novel technology company, FathomX faced a number of challenges during its commercialising journey such as regulatory compliance, availability of quality data and other factors in the commercialisation process.
As digital health startups, startups need to comply with the regulatory framework for medical devices, which includes safety, efficacy, and quality standards. Developers of AI software as a medical device need to ensure that their product meets the standards set by regulatory bodies. To do so, the FathomX team worked with high-quality partners and consultants to obtain the regulatory approvals needed.
Another challenge the FathomX team faced was the Data quality and availability. AI systems depend on data to train the AI to achieve greater accuracy. For AI software as a medical device, the data used to train and test the algorithm must be of high quality and relevance. Obtaining access to sufficient and diverse data can be challenging, especially when dealing with sensitive medical information. As a company, however, FathomX managed to set up several high-value partnerships to develop and validate a high-quality model which is of a high accuracy level. They have also chosen to work with top universities and hospitals in 8 Asia Pacific regions to prove that their AI is accurate and relevant in those territories, including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. One such high-value partnership that they established was with the National Cancer Centre in Japan which is a leading cancer research institute.
When commercialising the product, finding the right partners and supporters is extremely crucial to test bed and deploying a solution, especially across multiple jurisdictions. The task is more challenging for a small startup. The FathomX team had managed to tap into strong business expertise and networks in order to set up high-value partners, distributors and deployment partners to quickly get their solution to market.
Product integration within healthcare systems and its benefits
FxMammo integrates with and is deployed in healthcare systems through a range of methods including direct integration with Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS), integration through a platform provider, direct integration into a hospital as well as cloud deployment.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women and it is doubling in numbers by each successive generation in Asia. Successful treatment requires reliable early screening and detection, which involves difficult-to-read mammograms. The need for a reliable, easy-to-access solution that addresses the low ratio of radiologists to mammography screening needs for breast cancer, is both urgent and tremendous.
In developed countries with good healthcare systems, breast cancers discovered at Stage 1 have more than 90% survival rate. The number is reduced to below 20% at Stage 4. The key is early discovery. The standard recommended by WHO is once every 2 years mammography screening for women between 40 to 75 years old.
For women going for breast cancer screening, FathomX’s AI technology solution has been demonstrated to lead to fewer false recalls, unnecessary anxiety due to long waiting times at the current screening rate and fewer missed cancer diagnosis leading to more opportunities for early diagnostics. Their solution will augment the current shortage of mammography radiologists around the world and provide greater efficiency to their work processes. The main value of their AI technology is its ability to function as a radiological computer-assisted detection and diagnostic software intended to aid in the detection of breast cancer from acquired mammography images.
This solution provides key benefits at the clinician level as the radiologists who deal with mammogram image analysis can now have an accurate AI Assistant that can help with their workflow. The FathomX team are working with some hospitals to study the effectiveness and impact of AI deployed to assist trainees and new radiologists in reading mammogram images. For patients, the benefits are higher accuracy in breast cancer screening and shorter waiting times when they go for screening.
The solution also serves as an assistant for clinicians and is deployed through a range of methods including direct integration with the Picture Archiving Communication System.
Experience with the MedTech Actuator Global Navigator Australia
The FathomX team utilized the Global Navigator Australia program to gain a deeper understanding and validate their knowledge of the Australian medtech innovation ecosystem, including the business, reimbursement, corporate, and regulatory landscapes. Their goal was to identify relevant partners to aid in commercializing and accessing the Australian market, specifically in areas related to their product.
Over the past year, FathomX experienced significant growth across multiple fronts, including expanding their team, raising Pre-Series A funding, testing and deploying their product in various settings, obtaining regulatory approvals in different jurisdictions, and conducting clinical validation studies to demonstrate their accuracy and value in different settings.
Global Navigator provided a valuable opportunity for FathomX to meet with Breakthrough Victoria, universities, and hospitals to explore potential opportunities. FathomX highly recommends the MedTech Actuator to medtech startups interested in entering the Australian market.
“The program was a quick summary of the Australian healthcare landscape in a very short period of time which was extremely crucial for a business looking to enter the Australian healthcare market”.
FxMammo, FathomX’s product, is currently approved for use in Singapore and Thailand. The company is collaborating with partners, distributors, and regulatory bodies to gain approval in various regions worldwide and aims to scale the technology to over ten overseas markets in the next 2-3 years.
To learn more about the startup and its latest milestones, visit FathomX’s website.
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