Spanish company Iomed uses artificial intelligence to accelerate clinical research, says the pandemic will accelerate investment in data technologies applied to health.
A few years ago, Dr. Gabriel de Maeztu had to collect data by hand for a clinical trial to be carried out in a hospital. The process, which was done entirely manually, was so tedious that he began to develop a solution to automate it together with Javier de Oca and Álvaro Abella that led to the launch of Iomed in 2017.
Javier de Oca, current CEO and business developer of the company, recalls the birth of his startup, specializing in transforming electronic medical records (HCE) in structured data for clinical research thanks to artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
"In clinical research there is a very manual part of collecting data and identifying patients," explains De Oca. The manual way of the process causes, according to the CEO, delays and inefficiencies in a system that is scarce of professionals "to be employing them in tasks of little added value".
Obsessed with automating that process, Iomed co-founders have developed "algorithms that read medical records, understand what information is of interest and extract it," explains De Oca.
Millions of medical records, three times the number of patients selected and all in a tenth of the time
The startup tool allows you to review millions of medical records a day that turns into a structured database with values that may have clinical relevance.
One of the main cases of use of the Iomed tool is that it allows faster identification of patients who could be selected for a clinical trial.
Spanish company Iomed uses artificial intelligence
"We triple the number of patients detected for a trial and do it in a tenth of the time," specifies Javier de Oca.
The company works with hospitals throughout the country, adding projects in 27 Spanish centers, including hospitals such as Hospital Vall d'hebron and Hospital del Mar, in Barcelona, and Cruces-Biocruces Bizkaia University Hospital, in the Basque Country
In addition to clinical trials, Iomed has a project with several Spanish hospitals with coronavirus patients to collect data to obtain a characterization of patients.
"Before processing anything, we anonymize all the data and all the information that can identify the patient," says De OCA, who also notes that the data always " stays inside the hospital."
As for the business model," we charge for the use of our database in hospital-led projects, " he explains.
Despite the language, Iomed has no eyes on Latin America (yet)
Iomed has recently closed a € 2 million round of financing led by the Adara Ventures Fund, which is the company's third capital increase.
The previous rounds of funding were 100,000 and 500,000 euros, aimed at the acquisition of talent and the purchase of technological equipment.
This time, the investment will finance the company's international expansion and Oca already has two clear destinations in mind: "Germany and the UK".
For a platform that relies so much on natural language processing, a Spanish-speaking market would seem more obvious, but the CEO of Iomed explains his choice.
"Germany and the United Kingdom are in the top 3 countries participating in clinical research together with Spain," says De Oca. The CEO also underlines what he sees as the most obvious advantage: "we are united by the same regulatory framework, both for clinical research and for data protection."
Spain is leading in HCE, but has a big challenge to solve
"Spain is a leader in the adoption of HCE," says Javier de Oca, who claims the leadership of our country also in clinical research.
However, it recognizes that there is a major obstacle to the development of technology: "lack of unification". Systems are not homogeneous, no longer just between communities, but between hospitals.
The Galician and Andalusian service have unified the Standard, explains De Oca, but the other communities need to do the same. In Catalonia, for example, only the Centers operated by the Generalitat share the system.
"They are not interoperable, which causes problems with data sharing and has been a challenge during coronavirus," says the CEO of Iomed.
In this line, De Oca believes that the technologies of big data and artificial intelligence applied to health will be greatly accelerated thanks to the pandemic.
"The trend towards these technologies was already very clear," says De Oca. "But now, the very nature of the crisis has revealed weaknesses in data management and this sector is attracting much more demand and investment," he says.
Although he points out that uncertainty is slowing investment in all sectors right now, De Oca is clear that as soon as questions are cleared, "we will see how this picks up."
As for the figures of its business, in 2019, Iomed exceeded its objectives and closed the year with a turnover of more than 400,000 euros, consolidating itself as an agent of a booming sector: the global market of HCE is expected to grow from 70,000 million dollars in 2016 to 120,000 million dollars by the end of 2023.
Spanish company Iomed uses artificial intelligence