May 10, 2019

Edmonton doctors, AI scientists team up with drug giant in health software project

'We're now using the latest techniques to try to manage very complicated diseases'

Edmonton scientists and doctors are collaborating with a multinational drug company to develop a new tool which will help doctors predict how aging affects health.

AltaML, an Edmonton software company developing artificial intelligence, and doctors associated with the Oliver Primary Care Network will work with pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd. to develop a frailty index which clinicians can use to predict chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and mental health conditions.

"We're now using the latest techniques to try to manage very complicated diseases and we're doing some of these things for the first time in Edmonton," said Reg Joseph, CEO of Health City, an Edmonton non-profit group funded by the city, which is bringing the players together.

"This is very exciting as a community because we have so much strength in artificial intelligence and machine learning and here's a great example of one of our companies being able to bridge the gap and actually develop new technologies," Joseph told CBC News.

Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd. is investing in new methods of treating that "go beyond the pill," Joseph said.

AltaML CEO Cory Janssen said of his team of scientists take large data and put it in algorithms and "looking for those correlations, those permutations, those patterns that maybe the human brain can't see."

"Machine learning is when we're teaching algorithms to adapt without being explicitly programmed." Edmonton destined to be health innovation hub, says medical task force

Janssen sees Edmonton's future as combining expertise in AI with health and other industries like oil and gas to help diversify the economy.

"We literally have this pipeline of data scientists that is second to none," he said.

"There's so many amazing researchers on the health side of things, I think the answers are going to be combining that excellence that we have in health with the excellence in AI and ML." Don't forget about Edmonton, Iveson tells new Alberta government

Mayor Don Iveson foreshadowed the collaboration in his State of the City speech Tuesday at the Edmonton Convention Centre.

Iveson referred directly to AltaML and the collaboration as an example of Edmonton succeeding in diversifying its economy.

The parties are announcing the collaboration Friday at the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton.

Press: CBC