Microsoft and Volpara Health join forces to accelerate the research and development of software that uses mammograms to identify potential cardiovascular issues

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

Volpara Health Technologies, a global health technology software leader providing an integrated platform for personalised breast care, today announced a new research and development collaboration with Microsoft to accelerate the creation of a product that detects and quantifies breast arterial calcifications (BACs).

Microsoft and Volpara share a commitment to improving women’s health through science and innovation. The product will build upon Volpara’s approach to quantitative and objective breast density scoring using artificial intelligence (AI). Capitalising upon Volpara’s recent BAC patent,  the product will create a tissue composition map that identifies and quantifies BACs from a mammogram, helping radiologists identify the need to take steps toward prevention of heart disease. Machine learning and AI specialists from Microsoft will assist with improving Volpara’s BACs model and data processing, while Microsoft engineers will collaborate with the Volpara team on the product’s technical development and operationalisation.

This project is an expansion of the companies’ relationship over the last decade. Last year, Volpara’s innovative work in supporting healthcare providers was recognised with its SaaS (Software as a Service) Award win at the Microsoft New Zealand Partner Awards. Microsoft SaaS and cloud products have played a fundamental role in supporting Volpara’s development of the latest, FDA-cleared version of their core AI algorithm. To date, the algorithm has been used to assess the breast composition of more than 14.5M women through Volpara’s analysis of over 60M mammography and tomosynthesis images. These images, representing one of the world’s largest de-identified image datasets, will prove a pivotal resource for the BACs project.

The BACs product, as a cardiac decision-support tool for radiologists, would mark Volpara’s entrance into a new area of care, part of a US$146.4B cardiovascular disease market. With access to over 35 percent of the US breast screening market, Volpara has the installation base to facilitate rollout and adoption of the product, creating a new revenue stream. For women, the BACs product would add a new dimension to their regular breast screenings, providing important information about their cardiovascular health. Any significant BACs findings could be delivered through the Volpara® Breast Health Platform™ directly to the healthcare provider or through Volpara’s partner network.

Recently, Volpara announced Teri Thomas as the new Chief Executive Officer, with cofounder and former CEO Ralph Highnam, PhD, transitioning to Chief Science and Innovation Officer. As part of his new role, Highnam will spearhead the BAC initiative.

Of the joint project Highnam said: “The trusted relationship we have built with Microsoft over the years is important to Volpara’s future, especially our utilisation of the powerful Azure Cloud platform for machine learning and product development. Our mission and vision around the future of healthcare align well with Microsoft’s. Though we are in the early stages of BAC product development, this collaboration will accelerate our efforts as we advance science together.”

“With one in three deaths in New Zealand caused by cardiovascular disease, this new research and development collaboration means that, together, we can detect and identify earlier symptoms of heart disease in women,” said Microsoft New Zealand Partner Lead, Matt Bostwick.

“Volpara’s innovation with AI is not only improving healthcare across the globe, but it has the potential to save millions of lives. This is true AI for Good.”