"Support human beings, do not replace them" is a phrase often used when talking about the responsible use of artificial intelligence. This credo is also followed by the young Berlin-based start-up mediaire, which with its innovative AI solutions is preparing to do nothing less than revolutionise the everyday life of radiologists. The team around the founders Dr. Andreas Lemke and Dr. Jörg Döpfert, who holds a doctorate in physics in the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), provide doctors with efficient image analysis tools to sustainably improve the quality of diagnosis and treatment for radiology patients. Dr. Lemke talked to #ki_berlin about their software mdbrain and its flexible application possibilities, security of patient data and funding opportunities in Berlin.
Hello, Dr. Lemke. How did you get the idea for mediaire?
During my first start-up I was already working with radiologists. In fact, I was approached by a client who needed a solution for his clinical routine and asked me if I could develop such a solution. Thereupon I built a prototype which he liked so much that he was willing to be part of the foundation of mediaire.
How is your team structured, and what expertise does it have?
Our team now consists of 16 employees. More than half of them are active in development. They are divided into machine learning, front-end and back-end software. In addition, we have a strong sales team, a financial expert, a UX designer and a quality manager, which is particularly important for approval as a medical device. The special thing about our team is that many of them come from university research and at the same time have already gained a lot of practical experience in a professional business environment. This is particularly important for such a highly technological product.
How exactly does your mdbrain solution function?
Our software automatically analyses brain MRI images using artificial intelligence (so-called deep learning models) and provides the radiologist with a clear report of the information extracted from the image. This means that the recorded images can now be interpreted like a laboratory report and the radiologist can make a faster and better diagnosis. For example, the software automatically measures certain brain regions on the images, and if these regions have a smaller volume than normal this is displayed in colour. In this way, Alzheimer diseases, among others, can be diagnosed earlier.
The focus is on support in the early detection of dementia and multiple sclerosis. Will it be possible to adapt the technology to other fields and clinical images?
Yes, definitely. The basic procedure is always very similar. The next application we are currently planning is to extend the use of the system to other neurological diseases such as brain tumours. But our software is also aimed at supporting radiologists outside the brain, for example in measuring the spine, where we have already been able to demonstrate initial approaches to our customers.
At the moment you are working with a number of medical practices throughout Germany, but are planning to expand into other European countries. Where are the opportunities and risks - especially in relation to the most diverse health insurance and hospital systems?
We see the greatest difficulty above all in the health insurance systems and the resulting very heterogeneous market environment, which also generates very different customer requirements. The technical integration into radiological hospital IT is quite standardised between the countries, as we can integrate our solution completely independently of the hardware used.
We are talking about the processing of highly sensitive medical patient data. What is the situation as regards data security with your solution?
This is one of our most important sales arguments. Our software is integrated locally into the radiological IT system and requires no cloud upload whatsoever. This ensures the best possible protection of patient data.
Of course, the success of a project often stands and falls with the funding. How did that work out for you?
We have been consistently occupied with financing since our foundation, and funding was one of the most important issues at the beginning. The Berlin ProFit programme of the IBB has been very helpful. But also other subsidies like the Coaching BONUS programme were an important support at the beginning.
What about the innovative capacity of the Berlin ecosystem? What tipped the scales in favour of setting up your company here?
By now Berlin has become a center for AI development in Europe that attracts experts from all over the world. The high density of innovative and successful start-ups, the proximity to many health care facilities and the good funding were further reasons for us to choose Berlin as the location for mediaire.
Many thanks for the interview, Dr. Lemke.