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Flywheel partners with Google to bring machine learning to imaging informatics

por Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | February 12, 2019
Health IT
Flywheel, a medical imaging informatics platform for researchers, has announced a partnership with Google Cloud that would integrate cloud technology and machine learning into its solution, paving the way for clinical use.

The company announced and showcased its partnership with the Silicon Valley behemoth during HIMSS 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

Flywheel – which started as a collaboration with Stanford University as a way to manage large databases of medical images and make them accessible and searchable for research, and which has expanded to genomics and pharmaceutical data – will integrate Google Cloud's BigQuery data warehouse and Google's Cloud AutoML Vision API, a machine learning service, into its platform, which researchers use to organize and share a large number of multimodality medical images and related metadata.

BigQuery will enable the metadata associated with the images, such as patient demographic information, to be analyzed with an eye toward finding patterns, while Google’s Cloud AutoML Vision API would be trained to, for example, identify tumors on an image and connect that with untagged tumor types, said Jim Olson, the chief operating officer of Flywheel.

“The purpose of the partnership is all about enabling machine learning,” Olson told HCB News.

The company refers to its platform as a “research VNA” and Olson said they are already seeing interest from the clinical side.

“Data management and accessibility is job one,” Olson said. “Our mission is really to help the clinicians get their data organized to enable machine learning. … We’re kind of getting pulled to the clinical side because their needs are the same.”

Olson said the company is looking to work with a half dozen clinical clients, with UTHealth recently signing on.

The company’s appearance at HIMSS “is a big step in that direction,” Olson said.

"With our partners at Google Cloud, we are delivering an innovative research platform to meet the needs of imaging center directors, principal investigators, and clinical research institutions seeking to establish a scalable infrastructure for machine learning, advanced imaging research, and secure collaboration, to advance science, and ultimately, precision medicine," said Flywheel chief executive officer Travis Richardson in a statement announcing the partnership.

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