UCSF Launches Artificial Intelligence Center to Advance Medical Imaging

“Intelligent Imaging” Hub will Harness Computational Tools in Medical Imaging to Improve Patient Care

By Elizabeth Fernandez

UC San Francisco is launching a new center to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to radiology, leveraging advanced computational techniques and industry collaborations to improve patient diagnoses and care.

The Center for Intelligent Imaging, or ci2, will develop and apply AI to devise powerful new ways to look inside the body and to evaluate health and disease. Investigators in ci2 will team with Santa Clara, Calif.-based NVIDIA Corp., an industry leader in AI computing, to build infrastructure and tools focused on enabling the translation of AI into clinical practice. 

Christopher Hess portrait.
Christopher Hess, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging.

“Artificial intelligence represents the next frontier for diagnostic medicine,” said Christopher Hess, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. “It is poised to revolutionize the way in which imaging is performed, interpreted and used to direct care for patients.

“The Center for Intelligent Imaging will serve as a hub for the multidisciplinary development of AI in imaging to meet unmet clinical needs and provide a platform to measure impact and outcomes of this technology,” Hess said. “The result will be more efficient, higher-value imaging for patients within and outside of UCSF.”

UCSF has been a long-time leader in medical imaging, dating to the development of the MRI and the university’s 1975 collaboration with industry to install the first MRI systems in the United States and worldwide. The center aims to enable the same type of transformation via intelligent radiology, with the goal of again collaborating with industry to become of the first institutions to bring medical imaging AI to the bedside.   

NVIDIA engineers and data scientists will work alongside UCSF investigators to develop clinical AI tools, applying powerful computational resources that are available in few medical institutions, with the goal of accelerating the AI development cycle and integrating it seamlessly in the clinic.

“AI is one of the greatest tools of this century,” said Abdul Hamid Halabi, director of healthcare at NVIDIA. “ci2 is bringing together an innovative ecosystem of startups, vendors, UCSF’s thought leadership in radiology, and NVIDIA’s Clara platform on the world’s fastest GPUs, to create imaging AI solutions for improving patient care.”

Researchers in the center will use patient images and clinical data from UCSF Health and other institutions to develop, test and validate deep learning algorithms. The center’s computational infrastructure includes NVIDIA’s DGX-2 supercomputer, one of the first to be installed in the medical community. 

People talking in front of computers
Radiology Vice Chair Sharmila Majumdar, PhD, (center) who will run the Center for Intelligent Imaging's operations, discusses artificial intelligence aided images with colleagues. Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology Javier Villanueva-Meyer, MD, (left) and computational research data scientist James Hawkins (right).

“The volume of medical imaging has been rapidly increasing and radiologists are struggling to keep up with the sheer number of images,” said Sharmila Majumdar, PhD, a professor and vice chair in the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. “ci2 aims to impact the entire value chain of imaging, from the time the patient comes for a scan to the final delivery of individualized, quantitative, prognostic and care-defining information.”

Majumdar, who will run the center’s operations, will be leading a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to evaluate chronic back pain in the center, using AI-fueled algorithms, data analysis, quantitative sensory assessments, brain imaging, and biomechanical evaluation of the spine.   

The center also will link academic innovation to startups to promote collaborative AI imaging research and development. The inaugural start-up company to leverage ci2 in this capacity is London-based Kheiron Medical Technologies, Ltd., which will work with the UCSF breast imaging group to ensure that its MiaTM breast cancer screening software can be safely and feasibly deployed in ethnically diverse populations. 

“Breast cancer affects every woman’s life, either directly or indirectly,” said Bonnie Joe, MD, PhD, professor of radiology and chief of breast imaging in the department. “The impact of AI is magnified through its application to breast imaging. Augmenting the radiologist’s ability to detect breast cancer early will help us make a dent in this deadly disease.”  

“ci2 is unique in its focus of accelerating the translation of AI from the laboratory to the bedside, putting AI software through its paces to make sure it is safe and effective for patients,” said Peter Kecskemethy, chief executive officer of Kheiron Medical. “Together, we believe we can help usher in a new age of cancer care when AI-supported cancer diagnostics and workflows enable doctors to provide earlier and more accurate detection and tracking, and better outcomes for patients across the globe.”

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.