Caption Health nets Gates Foundation grant to bring AI guidance to lung ultrasound

Earlier this year, Caption Health received the FDA’s approval for artificial intelligence programs that guide untrained clinicians through the steps of a cardiac ultrasound exam—coaching them on how to acquire a clear image capable of diagnosing heart disease, through a process that typically requires a specialist.

Now, the company has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to apply the same concept to lung scans, with the goal of enabling screenings for potentially fatal cases of pneumonia among young children in low-resource settings, as well as for patients with COVID-19.

Lung ultrasounds require a similar level of clinical expertise as heart-focused exams, and are not widely available. The $4.95 million grant will support the development of AI designed to assist healthcare workers regardless of their skill level as they image each area of the organ, and to automatically spot the signs of different diseases.

This could include the detection of pneumonia as well as pulmonary edema, collapsed lungs, and the dangerous buildup of fluid in the cavities between the lungs and the chest wall, all contained in a portable ultrasound system.

RELATED: AI-guided ultrasound developer Caption Health raises $53M for further rollout

"Pulmonary health and cardiovascular health are closely intertwined," Caption Health’s chief medical officer, Randolph Martin, said in a statement. "Abnormalities or disease states in the lungs can directly cause prominent abnormalities of cardiac function, just as disease states in the heart can lead to marked abnormalities in the lungs.” 

“By taking our unique methodology for developing breakthrough AI for cardiac imaging and applying it to lungs, we will continue to broaden the impact we can have in helping with the management of patients with conditions affecting these two vital systems," said Martin.

Both lung and heart ultrasounds are being used in emergency rooms to help triage incoming patients with serious cases of COVID-19. The scans are also used to monitor changes in the lungs over time.

RELATED: To screen COVID-19 patients for heart problems, FDA clears several ultrasound, AI devices from Philips, Eko, Caption Health

"This grant from the Gates Foundation affirms the importance of our work in democratizing access to high-quality medical imaging in order to improve patient outcomes," said Caption Health’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Kilian Koepsell. "Empowering more clinicians to perform lung ultrasound alongside cardiac ultrasound at the point of care will help drive timely, accurate diagnosis and treatment of countless health conditions."

This week, the Gates Foundation also announced a new $70 million commitment for the development of COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution to low-income countries.