Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based Indian health-tech company Niramai has recently announced that it will develop a new AI-powered computer software to control the spread of River Blindness. They will leverage their innovative Thermalytix™ technology to detect the presence of live adult worms of Onchocerciasis that causes river blindness and significant disability.
At present, Thermalytix™, an automated diagnostic tool that combines thermal imaging with AI, is being used to detect early stage breast cancer in many hospitals today. This non-invasive detection method is expected to help assess the efficacy of new drugs being developed to control the disease by killing the adult worms, potentially accelerating the elimination of river blindness, which today infects about 17 million people in Africa. This project has been made possible through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Dr Geetha Manjunath, CEO and CTO, Niramai, said, “We’re very excited to collaborate with the Gates Foundation to extend the application of our innovative technique to areas other than breast cancer. Successful completion of this research project will demonstrate a breakthrough by Thermalytix™ in sensing abnormalities in the human body in a non-invasive, radiation-free and accurate way, even beyond cancer!”
A clinical expert collaborating with Niramai, Professor Dr Christopher L King of The Centre for Global Health and Diseases, Cleveland, Ohio, said, “Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is the world’s second-leading infection that causes blindness. The Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence (Niramai) technology can be a valuable tool for detecting infectious live worms in a non-invasive way and help global efforts to eliminate this very disabling disease.”
The disease, caused by a parasitic worm living under the skin in humans and spread by black fly bites, has led to about half a million people turning blind or becoming visually impaired. In addition to causing blindness, onchocerciasis is a chronic systemic disease capable of causing extensive and disfiguring skin diseases, chronic itching, musculoskeletal complaints, weight loss, alteration in host immune responses and, possibly, epilepsy and growth impairment. Onchocerciasis can have a considerable impact on social relationships among the poorest communities. Therefore, its control and elimination has been a high priority. It has been categorized by the Gates Foundation as one of the high-opportunity target diseases under the strategy to address NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases).
- Niramai is a deep-tech startup offering a radiation-free, non-invasive, non-touch, breast cancer screening solution, which is portable, accurate, privacy-aware and can be used for women of all ages.
- Niramai stands for ‘Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence’. In Sanskrit, it means being free from illnesses. Niramai was co-founded in 2016 by Dr Geetha Manjunath and Nidhi Mathur.
- Thermalytix is their core technology that uses a high-resolution thermal sensing device and a cloud-hosted analytics solution for analysing thermal images. Their SaaS solution uses big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning for reliable, early and accurate breast cancer screening.
- The innovative methods used in Niramai’s solution have led to multiple US patents and their novel algorithms have also been peer-reviewed in international scientific conferences. Niramai’s technology detects breast cancer at a much earlier stage than traditional methods or self-examination.