Eye health projects receive share of £13 million AI investment

Initiatives include scaling and validating a foundation model for ophthalmology and an AI tool to predict fibrosis progression in wet AMD patients

A clinician wearing a white surgical gown and a face mask looks closely at a medical scan pinned to the wall
Pixabay/Dmitriy Gutarev

Eye health projects are among 22 initiatives that have received funding in a £13 million boost to artificial intelligence (AI) research.

The announcement was made by Science Minister, Michelle Donelan, during a visit to University College London’s (UCL) Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences on August 10.

A broad range of projects received funding, involving universities from Surrey to Edinburgh.

Initiatives related to eye health include a £453,000 grant to use foundation AI models for ophthalmic imaging and diagnosing retinal diseases. The project is led by Professor Pearse Keane, of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

A project led by Professor Daniel Rueckert of Imperial College London received a £600,000 grant.

The research aims to develop a privacy-preserving AI tool to aid the diagnosis and assessment of retinal fibrosis in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Currently, fibrosis is assessed manually by ophthalmologists, with variation between clinicians on how they assess the degree of fibrosis.

It is hoped that the use of AI for this task will enhance consistency, as well as improving speed and accuracy.

Rueckert shared that medical imaging is a field where the innate pattern recognition strengths of AI can be leveraged.

“Incorporating AI into the assessment of retinal fibrosis has the potential to improve accuracy of classifying what stage disease is at, and how it’s likely to progress, which will better inform treatment decisions for the patient,” he said.

A full list of the funded projects is available on the UK Research and Innovation website.