31st March 2023

France is set to become a global leader in using AI to diagnose and treat diseases through €33 million Owkin-led AI project

France 2030

France is set to become a global leader in artificial intelligence-powered precision medicine through a new €33 million Bpifrance-funded consortium project led by French AI biotech company Owkin.

Born from a collaboration between Owkin and Gustave Roussy, Europe's leading cancer hospital, PortrAIt will see research hospitals and pathology labs across France working with French technology leaders to develop and deploy new digital pathology AI tools to improve cancer treatment. The project aims to build at least 15 AI-based tools to improve the diagnosis of cancer, the discovery of new treatment biomarkers and the prediction of patient outcomes in hospitals across France.

Gustave Roussy, Centre Léon Bérard, Unicancer and other French comprehensive cancer centres will work closely with Owkin, French digital imaging company Tribun Health, and French pathology diagnostics group CYPATH to usher in a new era of precision medicine.

The project will train machine learning models to spot minutely-different patterns in patients’ diseases through digital pathology slides – digitised images of patient’s tissue samples. By producing more efficient, effective and accessible diagnostic tools, clinicians will be equipped to better tailor treatment plans to patients’ individual needs at an earlier stage in their disease. The detection of biomarkers and the better prediction of patient outcomes will further help oncologists to personalise treatment.

PortrAIt will produce a platform that will provide a research setting for consortium partners to collaborate on the development of the AI diagnostic tools. They will then be tested and deployed in cancer centres and pathology labs across France. The five-year project aims to establish its platform within one year and deploy new AI-based patient diagnostics in hospitals within four years.

Meriem Sefta, Chief Diagnostics Officer at Owkin, said:

“Digital pathology-based precision medicine promises to transform the way we diagnose and treat diseases. It is enabling doctors to tailor treatment to the specific needs of their patients at an earlier stage, while democratizing access to high-quality, personalised treatment.

“PortrAIt will empower French hospitals to play a leading role in the development of the next generation of AI-powered diagnostic tools. Our aim is to make France the global leader in digital pathology-based precision medicine.”

Professor Fabrice André, Director of Research and Professor of Medical Oncology at Institut Gustave Roussy, Paris, said:

“Artificial intelligence has become a true reality and is a major asset for accelerating discoveries in oncology, particularly in cancer modeling, for predicting responses to treatment and the risk of relapse. It is by bringing together all forms of intelligence that we will meet the challenge of curing cancer.”

Roland Lescure, Deputy Minister for Industry, said:

"This project will make it possible to better fight cancer by equipping healthcare professionals with innovative artificial intelligence tools. The aim is to help doctors make the best use of the information contained in histological slides to personalise treatments. This ambitious project brings together major players in the field, both public and private, to form a community of internationally recognised and complementary experts. Nearly 15 million euros from France 2030 have been allocated to this project. It is one of the most important funding projects in our so-called "digital health" strategy."

Professor Jean-Yves Blay, General Director of the Centre Léon Bérard and President of Unicancer, said:

“Health data combined with artificial intelligence are essential as they tackle major health challenges in oncology. They refine disease diagnosis, personalise treatments, predict the course of the disease and accelerate access to innovation.

We want to create a culture of collaboration between data scientists, pathologists, oncologists and getting access to data in hospital network, for the benefit of patients, of every patient. Unicancer and the CLCC experts will actively participate in all stages of the project, from the design of the technical platforms to the development of the models. The pathologists of the CLCCs, key in these innovations, will be on the front line to deploy and coordinate the testing of these solutions in routine care. This will ultimately shape the pathology of tomorrow, with the ambition of forming the first 100% digital hospital network for optimized diagnosis.”

Phllippe Chalabreysse, pathologist and CEO of Cypath Group, said:

“The pathologists of the Cypath group are convinced that AI is an opportunity for their specialty. They are ready to take up the challenge of integrating these new tools into their diagnostic routine and thus providing access to innovation for their patients.

“As a private group located on 13 sites, they will strive to develop solutions allowing good patient care while ensuring financial balance.”

Jean-François Pomerol, CEO of Tribun Health, said:

“The key challenges related to AI in medicine is the integration of AI tools into the care pathway to support diagnostic decision for better patient outcomes. PortrAIt's approach is to structure and organize innovative AI solutions within a scalable and interoperable digital platform, designed to integrate seamlessly into the pathologist's workflow and unlock the value of histopathology data. Tribun Health is very excited to be part of this ambitious consortium project which will revolutionize the digital pathology sector and support the development of precision medicine.”

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