AI-based platform aims to transform screening of Alzheimer’s Disease

This innovative technology was created by iLoF, a digital health company pioneering a breakthrough AI-powered platform, in collaboration with the University Hospital Center of São João and the Luz Saúde group.

Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, described for the first time in 1906 a neurodegenerative disease that would later be named after him. Since the discovery of the first case of Alzheimer’s, as we know it today, the prevalence of the disease has grown, affecting 55 million people all over the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the last 14 years, various efforts have been made to diagnose and treat this condition in its early stages. However, 400 clinical trials later, this is still not possible.

Acknowledging the importance of solving this problem, Roche, the leading pharmaceutical company, joined Beta-i, a collaborative innovation consultancy, for the program “Building Tomorrow Together – Innovation in Dementia”. This initiative aims to connect the expertise and experience of Portuguese health institutions with the disruptive force of health startups to foster the creation of digital solutions focused on improving the quality of life of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Within this framework, iLoF, a global company in digital health solutions, worked together with the University Hospital Center of São João (CHUSJ) and the Luz Saúde group (Hospital da Luz Lisboa, coordinated by Luz Saúde Learning Health) to boost the effectiveness of Alzheimer’s screening through the creation of a digital library of biomarkers and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

According to Luís Valente, CEO & Co-Founder  of iLoF, “our platform was rooted on the idea that novel, effective treatments cannot be developed using a generalised approach when there are heterogeneous pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s, in which every single patient shows a different clinical evolution”. Applying the values of personalised medicine to this case, the company created an AI platform which uses light to generate “optical molecular fingerprints” from different samples obtained from dementia patients and patients on the AD spectrum.

The collected signals are stored in a digital, cloud-based library of optical fingerprints”. These digital twins ”of biofluids, such as blood-derived, can help health professionals detect early changes in the brain because of their strong biological correlation, holding great potencial to be used for health monitoring and of several processes that happen in the human body – displaying not only the normal functions but also the ones that can reveal the possible progression of diseases.

iLoF’s AI tool is a non-invasive screening method that can ease the first contact with the disease and offer patients greater comfort. Furthermore, this platform promises a simple and exact clinical implementation, requiring only one single plasma sample (taken from 25μL of blood) and a quick screening (under 30 seconds) to be able to conduct differential screening of multiple disease classes of dementia, outperforming diagnostic methods currently employed.

CHUSJ and the Luz Saúde group (Hospital da Luz Lisboa, coordinated by Learning Health) joined the program to support the development of this solution, by providing invaluable guidance and supplying the necessary data and plasma samples from clinically confirmed dementia patients needed to test the platform. Regarding the practical application of this technology, Dr. Sofia Oliveira, neurologist of the Luz Saúde group shares: “This screening tool has significant potential to become part of healthcare services, contributing to the modernization of the national healthcare system in the future even though it is still in development.”

The expertise of health professionals from Luz Saúde and the collaboration with CHUSJ in testing and recruiting patients for the study have been fundamental to validating the solution. The program’s objective of collecting samples from 75 clinically confirmed patients by the end of the pilot phase was successfully achieved. The study continued with the inclusion process and has been extended to other institutions with the aim of including up to 1,500 patients.

Getting to collaborate with other Portuguese hospitals is a crucial step. According to  Luís Valente, from iLoF, “the goal is to reach a total sample size of more than a thousand people, resulting in 1500 distinct biological samples, which will allow to expand the platform to understand and screen for the largest number of different types of dementia.”

The actual application of the solution to clinical practice can be fast tracked by proper funding and the supply of adequate infrastructures, both granted by the program “Building Tomorrow Together- Innovation in Dementia”, by Roche, Multicare, and Beta-i so far. The extension of the collaboration between iLoF and the Portuguese healthcare institutions CHUSJ and the Luz Saúde group (Learning Health) is also of the greatest importance.

Implementing this non-invasive screening solution will improve medical support to patients and contribute to fighting this public health problem – dementia. At a time when it is estimated that one person develops dementia every 3 seconds, this represents a promising stride in a race against time.