The Healthtech VC #001: Can AI create a world where no one dies of skin cancer?

Coinciding with the official launch of Crista Galli Ventures, our founder Dr Fiona Pathiraja has launched her new podcast, The Healthtech VC. Each episode will see Fiona speak with a wide range of guests in the healthtech space – from ambitious startups and outstanding investors to visionary leaders.

The launch episode sees Fiona welcome Neil Daly, founder and CEO of dermatology AI company, Skin Analytics, which has developed pioneering AI technology that helps diagnose skin cancer. Crista Galli Ventures invested in Skin Analytics recent £4m series A funding round.

The start of Skin Analytics 

Having studied for an MBA at London Business School (LBS), Neil’s idea for Skin Analytics was developed at LBS. When tasked with developing a strategy for a new business, Neil wanted to create a company that would use computer vision to help diagnose skin cancer. Through teamwork with his peers and a lot of rigorous testing and development, Skin Analytics was born. 

Not long after finishing his MBA, Neil took the courageous decision to quit his day job to concentrate on growing Skin Analytics full time. The business launched with the aim of dramatically improving the survival rate for skin cancer through clinically validated machine learning tools. Their CE-marked DERM AI product is central to creating an AI-powered dermatology clinical pathway. You can read the full research study in the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) here – and it’s a study that Eric Topol recently declared as an example of best practice in peer-reviewed medical AI.

The power and role of AI

The value of AI in healthcare is growing exponentially. Whilst there are often fears that AI is here to replace humans, those fears are unfounded. Skin Analytics’ purpose is not to replace the important work carried out by dermatologists and GPs, instead it serves to complement and support their work by improving existing patient pathways and stemming the flow of non-urgent cases that are currently being referred for specialist consultations. 

With an estimated 10 million GP appointments taking place each year in the UK for skin cancer assessments, only around 16,000 of these result in a diagnosis of melanoma, placing huge pressure on the health systems.  

Neil explained how Skin Analytics’ AI technology is able to help assess a patient and identify skin cancer even at its earliest stages, helping to ensure the right patients are referred on to a dermatologist. This ensures that the most urgent cases are treated first and helps to solve increasing demand pressures in primary and secondary care.

The future of Skin Analytics

After recently completing a Series A fundraise, including investment from Crista Galli Ventures, Neil is excited about what the future holds for Skin Analytics. In the wake of COVID-19, he says there is now far greater evidence of the need for AI imaging technology and its role in managing the backlog of patients who haven’t been able to see a GP or a dermatologist.

He has already launched a successful partnership with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, where ‘clean hubs’ have been set up outside of the main hospital, enabling medical photographers and nurses to image patients and then triage them for further consultations or discharge.

It is this type of service Neil anticipates will only continue to grow as we navigate a post-COVID-19 world, and Skin Analytics is uniquely placed to help hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups work together to find solutions to help the overall efficiency of the NHS. 

To listen to the full episode, The Healthtech VC podcast is available for download on Apple Podcasts here.