A research project focused on artificial intelligence and 3D imaging has conquered the Lion’s Den. The Image Enhancement Centre project, spearheaded by CAR Board Member and Canadian Association for Interventional Radiology Board Member. Dr. Darren Ferguson, competed against other medical innovation project pitches from around New Brunswick in medical competition and took home the grand prize and an additional $100,000 grant from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.
The winning proposal centred on establishing an imaging lab within the Saint john Regional Hospital in New Brunswick where clinicians will be able to work with 3D printed renderings of patients’ body parts, essentially giving clinicians a tactile copy of their patients’ anatomy. This will help with the development of skills and with the planning and practice of surgery. Imaging centres driven by artificial intelligence-based 3D printing are quickly becoming commonplace in medical centres across North America, and the Image Enhancement Centre team believes their proposal has the capacity to position the Saint John Regional Hospital as a leader in the space. As the team highlighted in their pitch, these programs enhance the efficiency of surgical procedures, improve patients’ education before undergoing procedures, produce educational models, and have numerous occupational therapy applications. All of this can lead to decreased surgical wait-times, reduced anesthesia time, improved patient outcomes, and enhanced specialist recruitment efforts.
“Imagine clinicians holding 3D images in their hands, feeling the body parts they will be working on. Imagine giving clinicians a virtual copy of their patients’ anatomy to plan and practice surgery. Imagine clinicians having the fingerprint, physical 3D map of a patient’s blood vessels before performing surgery – providing them with a clear view and detail of the surgical site, including obstacles they may face while operating. 3D printing gives doctors and clinicians the opportunity to hold the future in their hands and improve it.” – Dr. Darren Ferguson, Image Enhancement Centre team
Zach Kilburn is part of the Image Enhancement Centre project and is Regional Director of Diagnostic Imaging for the Horizon Health Network. He says participating in the competition has paid off more than just financially for their ongoing work.
“We have a wide variety of competing projects and priorities for capital funding and this initiative helped push Horizon and the province of New Brunswick to the forefront of 3D printing and artificial intelligence adaptation across the country.” said Kilburn.
He further adds that the project has seen a dramatic boost in visibility.
“In terms of awareness, the virtual model has reached thousands. To date, we’ve had 60,000+ trailer views, over 3,000 people have watched the film online. The website has received 16,000 views and we garnered more than 2 million media impressions.”
Now that the competition is over and a substantial amount of funding has been secured, Kilburn says there is plenty to look forward to as the project moves on to its next phases.
“We are in the process of finalizing partnerships and working through procurement processes with the target of having our first patient printed around the spring of 2022. Recruiting of staff, procurement and program creation are all ongoing and we are targeting the first utilization of a particular AI algorithm within the next several months, so stay tuned to more exciting announcements once the ink is dry.”
Watch the entire winning pitch video here. Congratulations to Dr. Ferguson and his colleagues on their win.