Search for content, post, videos

Interview: Using AI to improve early diagnosis

Lennart Thurfjell Photo Johan Wingborg

Finnish Combinostics is aiming to expand its platform for early detection of neurodegeneration into new markets and sees an increasing demand for technologies such as theirs.

Combinostics was founded in Tampere in 2014 and its technology is built on research at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, studying AI and machine learning for diagnostics. Its first commercial product was launched two years later. The company’s cloud platform, cNeuro, is used for quantitative assessment of brain images and for providing clinical decision support in neurological disorders. The platform consists of two product modules, cMRI (fully automated solution for quantifying MR brain scans) and cDSI (quantitative differential diagnostics in dementia). Nordic Life Science (NLS) asked the CEO of Combinostics, Lennart Thurfjell (LT), about the company’s current activities and future plans.

NLS: You recently announced the closure of a 3.9 million EUR series A funding round. The round was jointly-led by Industrifonden and NordicNinja VC. What will you use the money for?

LT: The money will primarily be used to increase the commercial aspects of the company. We have founded a subsidiary in the US and we have recently appointed a sales manager there. We will expand with additional employees within marketing and sales during this year and we will also appoint sales support, i.e., clinical application specialists. We are of course also developing commercial growth in Europe and we have ongoing projects with collaboration partners in Japan and Brazil. We will also use this financing to strengthen R&D, mainly at our headquarters in Tampere.

NLS: What is unique about your product cNeuro?

LT: With our product we are focusing on neurological diseases, foremost in the field of neurodegeneration, such as dementia and MS. There are several companies that are working within the field of AI for radiology and also within neuro. The unique thing about our platform is that we are focusing both on the radiologist and the neurologist. The radiologist may use cNeuro for an analysis of MR images and to generate a radiology report. However, for the neurologist the image information is only a piece of the puzzle and our platform allows him or her to combine image information and results from neurophysiology, genetics and laboratory tests, for example biomarkers for cerebrospinal fluid. All data combined is compared with data from earlier diagnosed patients, and in that way the neurologist can receive help in the diagnostic process.

“The unique thing about our platform is that we are focusing both on the radiologist and the neurologist.”

NLS: What are your opportunities on the market for diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases?

LT: We see great opportunities, not least through our unique approach to not only helping the radiologist but also the neurologist. Within MS there are good, but very expensive, pharmaceuticals and it is important to detect early whether a certain drug is working for the affected patient. Within Alzheimer’s there are positive signals in the development of effective pharmaceuticals and there are high hopes of the introduction of new drugs in the coming years. When that happens there will be a great need to identify patients and to follow up treatments. This means that most likely there will be a heavily increasing demand for technologies like ours.

“When that happens there will be a great need to identify patients and to follow up treatments. This means that most likely there will be a heavily increasing demand for technologies like ours.”

NLS: Describe your business model and future plans for the development of Combinostics?

LT: We have a cloud based service and we provide cNeuro to radiologists and neurologists through a subscription where the costs depend on the estimated annual volume of patients.

NLS: What’s next for Combinostics and what’s on the agenda for 2020?

LT: We will appoint employees within sales and marketing, both in the US and in Europe during 2020. We are also working together with collaboration partners in Japan and other parts of Asia.

Photo of Lennart Thurfjell: Johan Wingborg