A few weeks ago we were invited by the European Commission and InTouchAI.eu –the International Outreach Office on human-centric AI– to participate in the EU AI Week (14-18 March 2022) at Expo Dubai, as a way to showcase European Excellence and Trust in Artificial Intelligence around the world.

In the frame of this high-level event, InTouchAI.eu hosted a series of sessions on the European approach to AI. One of these events was the Expert Workshop on AI for Health, in which our coordinator, Federico Álvarez, participated as a panelist. He was also accompanied by representatives from 2 other EU-funded projects: DIH-HERO and EuCanImage.

The panel focused on practical examples of European AI excellence in the healthcare sector and discussed the practical implications of AI in healthcare, mostly on how to reconcile social and ethical aspects in a human-centric approach to AI that upholds our European values. After the official round of introductions and a brief overview of the guest projects, the panelists engaged in open discussion. Federico’s interventions focused on the concept of federation and how we understand it in GenoMed4All. We are dealing with very sensitive data (namely genomics, imaging and clinical data), while also operating in the realm of rare diseases, which inevitably adds another layer of complexity to the search for new AI models and patterns in hematological disorders.

[on]… the concept of federation, we go a bit beyond, we do Federated Learning.  […] Would any of you like to share your genomic information openly? Maybe not. But if we do it in a way that this information stays in the hospital where the patient gave their consent, then we can create a big network and this […] for hematological diseases is really important, because they are rare: there are not so many cases in Europe, so we want to connect all the repositories.

Apart from data scarcity and fragmentation, another great challenge to be mindful of is the issue of data sharing and cross-border exchanges of health data. While cautious, Federico remained hopeful on this front:

[…] We are working on ethics and legal protection, and what I find interesting is that if we want to cooperate outside Europe, we already know how to, we can export that to the rest of the world, and they can join this federated infrastructure. It’s not an issue! Engineers will find a way of coping with models that can exchange cross-border data in a way that can preserve privacy, data protection and our European values. Another point we think is relevant is the standardization of genomic information, so we also want to find a way for people to cooperate with the same standards on their research.

When asked about the long-term sustainability of the project, Federico presented our vision for GenoMed4All’s platform and how this privacy-by-design approach will be fundamental to scale up and onboard more and more clinical sites through distributed algorithms. The challenge, as always, lies in how to effectively transform research breakthroughs into solutions with clear clinical usability and fully compliant with current regulations so that AI can have a real, positive impact in the lives of so many European patients.

[The key is in] …really connecting all these different hospitals, clinics… places where we can find this data, especially for some diseases that are not so common, and […] on how to transition from researchers doing something that is valuable to bringing something to the hospitals that will work and be adopted, so that finally European patients can benefit from AI.

All in all, this event was the perfect opportunity  to present our views on AI and its potential to drive the future of personalized medicine in hematological diseases and it was an honour to share the stage with some fantastic experts. Check out the workshop livestream below for the full experience!