I am the Director of Research Pathology in the US here at Aiforia. That entails several things, from training and advising our scientists on how to build AI models for customers to managing everyday administrative tasks like hiring new team members. Another facet of being a director, I think, is inspiring people to do their work, making sure it’s on track, and keeping it fun.
What is your expertise and how do you think it supports your role?
My expertise falls into a couple of different categories. I was trained as a veterinarian, I went to veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania and then I worked in clinical practice for a couple of years in small animal medicine. Then, I went to The Ohio State University for a simultaneous residency training program in veterinary pathology and a Ph.D. in immunology. At that point, I started focusing my research interests on infectious diseases, specifically tuberculosis.
There is a substantial amount of similarity between leading a research team to do investigations and directing our science team to apply their knowledge to help our clients answer their research questions.
Why did your lab choose to use Aiforia?
In 2018, I started looking for an AI company that allowed me to build my own AI models. I wanted this for 2 reasons: (a) so that I could better quantify image features supporting tuberculosis research and (b) because many other investigators asked me to analyze their research images as a pathologist, by manually counting a lot of features. And counting a lot of stuff? Done much better by a computer than a human. That’s where Aiforia Create came in, and I’ve been using it for the past 4 years.
Other companies I looked into supported hard-programmed models, but they were less adaptable for future use. They also charged more upfront costs, which were a barrier to entry as an individual investigator. I also didn’t want the extra hardware — I liked the cloud-based platform. What sold me though, is that Aiforia is a company full of scientists making tools for scientists. A company of nerds, for nerds 😄.
What did Aiforia Create allow you to do that you couldn’t before?
One of the projects I used Aiforia Create to develop was a large AI model that recognizes tuberculosis granulomas and their cellular structures. We take the data that comes out of the AI model, for example, the numbers of infected macrophages, and conduct a statistical analysis called genetic mapping or QTL analysis. From there we can recognize the regions on the genome or sets of genes that might control that granuloma response.
Create allowed me to analyze images faster than before, and to scale. One of the many functionalities I gained was measuring distances between, say, a bacterium and an immune cell efficiently.
Do you have any advice for pathology practices looking to go digital?
Do it! But first, know what you would want to use an AI model for and weigh the pros and cons of working with a company. Start small, and test the waters with a pilot project. It's easy to build on something successful and small. If it doesn’t work or if you have a different idea, you can reformulate and start again.