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### Owkin Advances to Mid-Stage with Encouraging Colorectal Cancer AI Diagnosis Verification

The company has provided validation data for MSIntuit CRC, its AI-powered digital pre-screening sol…

Owkin, a biotechnology company headquartered in France, has supplied validation data for MSIntuit CRC, an artificial intelligence-driven online pre-screening tool designed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer. The details of the verification process and Owkin’s discoveries were documented in a report titled “Validation of MSIntuit as an AI-based pre-screening tool for identifying MSI in colorectal cancer pathology slides,” which was published in Nature Communications.

In colorectal cancer, Microsatellite Instability (MSI) is a significant genomic biomarker present in 15% of cases. Owkin’s solution enables the detection of MSI in patients. The MSI characteristic holds both diagnostic and therapeutic importance, as indicated by data from recent clinical trials. Patients with MSI-positive cancers are more likely to benefit from immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapies like pembrolizumab. Conversely, for patients with microsatellite stable (MSS) colorectal cancer, these treatments are not recommended.

Organizations such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend screening previously diagnosed colorectal cancer cases for MSI to identify this crucial disease marker. Pre-screening aims to ensure that individuals receive the most suitable treatments for their tumors promptly, thereby reducing the time spent evaluating multiple therapy options. Various techniques, including Immunohistochemistry, PCR, and next-generation sequencing, can be utilized to screen for MSI, each with its own limitations such as cost and turnaround time.

Owkin’s validation study revealed that AI-based solutions could effectively monitor patients within the healthcare setting. The company utilized samples from the Cancer Genome Atlas to train its Artificial Intelligence model. Subsequently, a separate dataset comprising 600 colorectal cancer cases from nine pathology labs was used to validate the model blindly. The study demonstrates that MSIntuit CRC accurately classifies over 96% of MSI patients and correctly excludes nearly 50% of MSS patients, aligning with the current gold standard. The results remained consistent across different machines and sample presentations from diverse lesion areas. Moreover, the turnaround time for results is significantly reduced, providing specialists with outcomes within hours rather than days.

Advocates of this solution believe it has the potential to revolutionize colorectal cancer screening protocols and improve patient outcomes. According to Magali Svrcek, PhD, a faculty member at Saint Antoine Hospital, Sorbonne Université, and a co-author of the publication, this tool could “directly impact expert decision-making and facilitate the timely administration of optimal treatments to patients. Particularly in countries implementing universal MSI screening, it could streamline costs and the process of MSI testing in pathology labs.”

“Our innovation marks the initial phase towards developing an AI diagnostic capable of identifying actionable biomarkers from a single H&E sample utilized in clinical practice,” stated Meriem Sefta, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer at Owkin.

Owkin is expanding its presence in the medical discovery field through collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and other entities. For instance, the company recently announced a partnership with Servier, an independent pharmaceutical firm focused on leveraging AI to enhance treatments across numerous disease areas.

The collaboration between Owkin and Servier will initially concentrate on electronic pathology and translational medicine. Under this collaboration, Owkin will leverage Servier’s scientific data to leverage its machine learning capabilities, gaining fresh insights into disease biology and identifying patient populations most responsive to the company’s new treatments.

The primary focus of their initial project will be identifying cancer types, lesion microenvironments, and patient subgroups that exhibit optimal responses to a novel Servier asset. Additionally, they will explore tumor evolution data to identify potential drug combinations that target additional immune checkpoints or cell-intrinsic mechanisms. Their subsequent project will explore the application of digital pathology to expedite screening processes and enable comprehensive analysis of tissue-based biomarkers.

Furthermore, Owkin has entered into an agreement with Genmab, a biotechnology company specializing in antibody-based therapies for cancer and other illnesses. As per the agreement, Owkin will evaluate the impact of Genmab’s medical assets on specific cancer types using its platform.

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Last modified: December 25, 2023
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