Canadian government invests CA$2 million into AI-based organ donation research

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In recognition of the fact that “too many” people in Canada are on organ waitlists, with Canada also lagging behind other high-performing countries in organ donation, the Canadian government has invested CA$2 million into two innovative organ and tissue donation research projects.

In 2020, over 4,400 people in Canada were waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and, of those, 286 died while on the waitlist, according to a press release from Health Canada.

Recently, at the close of National Organ Transplantation and Donation Awareness Week, the Canadian minister of health Jean-Yves Duclos announced funding for two new projects through Innovative Solutions Canada that will focus on cutting-edge research in the area of organ and tissue donation—in the hopes of improving these statistics.

“Organ and tissue donation saves lives,” said Duclos. “Our government is investing in the development of organ donation technology because it is critical in helping people in Canada who require lifesaving transplants. The funding announced today will support research which will ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes and efficiency in the health system.”

BI Expertise, which is based in Quebec City and specialises in the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing technologies, and Ortho BioMed, which is based in Toronto and develops a range of medical technologies and provides clinical research services, will each receive CA$1 million from Health Canada over two years to develop and test their prototype tools that use AI to more accurately match organ donors with recipients.

Donated organs are a lifesaver for thousands of people in Canada, but available donors are scarce, the release continues. Post-transplantation organ failure and other complications are also common, wasting precious resources and further straining the healthcare system. The release also notes, however, that increasing the donor pool and matching individual recipients with organs predicted to last the longest can result in:

  • More successful donations
  • Shorter wait times for potential organ recipients
  • Better life quality and reduced cost of care for patients awaiting transplantation
  • Fewer deaths and organ rejections post-transplantation

“AI technologies have a huge potential to improve the life of people in the organ donation system,” said Hobivola Rabearivelo, chief strategy and partnerships officer at BI Expertise. “We highly appreciate the support we receive from the Government of Canada. This funding will accelerate the development of the solution and the setup of a spin-off company dedicated to bringing it to market. We are looking forward to collaborating around the solution with all organ transplant stakeholders, in the best interest of patients.”

“Use of AI in healthcare is on the rise,” added Nick Sajadi, chief technology officer at Ortho BioMed. “Linking genetic diseases with DNA information is now much faster and more accurate, thanks to advances in AI. It has also enabled early cancer detection, thus saving lives. This project will use similar technology to augment clinical decision-making during the pre-transplant period, donor-recipient matching, and post-transplant care. It promises to make life a lot better for many patients.”

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