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Alauddin Bhuiyan Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Alauddin Bhuiyan, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO, iHealthScreen Inc.
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – November 1, 2021
CEOCFO: Dr. Bhuiyan, what is iHealthScreen Inc?
Dr. Bhuiyan: iHealthScreen is a startup company that developed artificial intelligence-
CEOCFO: Why this particular area?
Dr. Bhuiyan: These are the disease areas when people do not know that they have these diseases, stay dormant or without symptoms, and one day they realize that they cannot see, i.e., they are legally blind and also the diseases such as stroke and heart disease are killing people. Therefore, I studied from my Ph.D. to prevent these diseases. I studied this to analyze this disease diagnosis, and my observation is that this is preventable. That is how I started this company.
CEOCFO: How would a practitioner use your software?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Very simple. The software name iPredictTM, has a user-
CEOCFO: How would this differ from what might commonly be used now?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Right now, these diseases are screened by the ophthalmologist. People need to go to the ophthalmologist, they may need to take a day off or travel, or they do not have any problem right now, and that is why not many people are going to the regular screening. The National Institute of Health (NIH) study has shown that 50 percent of individuals are not going for screening, that is why we can see the number of blindness increasing in America from these diseases. That is why we wanted to put these devices in the hands of the primary care physicians, where more or less we go once a year. From there, if we can screen them regularly, and we can prevent these diseases.
CEOCFO: Do you feel that general practitioners would like to take this on? Have they been looking for something like this? How do you know they are going to want to add it and not say, “Oh, it is another thing we have to do during an exam, maybe we should still encourage the ophthalmologist?”
Dr. Bhuiyan: The good thing is that we spoke with them, we interviewed them, and they are really eager to help their patients. When they are helping their patients, if it is covered by their insurance, they will definitely use our device.
CEOCFO: Is it an easy-
Dr. Bhuiyan: Yes, it is very easy. We think you do not need much training. They can simply read the manual. With the camera we are proposing, it is a simple touch start button that will be fed into the computer. They can upload the image into the software with two or three clicks, then the software will generate the report with the results.
CEOCFO: Do you have products available today?
Dr. Bhuiyan: As a product, we are ready. It is now used in seven clinics under Mount Sinai hospital as a pilot study. We are using this data for FDA clearance; also, it is ready for the EU market with CE and ISO 13485: 2016 certification. So yes, the product is ready and is now currently being used.
CEOCFO: What have you learned as people are starting to use the product? What might you have changed or tweaked? What might be different from your original concept?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Not much. We are more or less the same, other than some minor changes in the interface to make the software easy to use. Other than this, we saw some interest in the clinic. They really appreciate that, as the clinics are able to help their patients with regular screening.
CEOCFO: What about glaucoma? Is that a separate process? Is it the same piece of equipment? How does it all get put together?
Dr. Bhuiyan: They are all separate as a disease type. The process for the use of the software is also the same. The same camera, but when you are doing the screening, every patient is a different patient for each disease type. For example, for diabetic retinopathy, you are only screening diabetic patients. For glaucoma, there has to be some specific reason, like if the patient had a head injury or a family history of glaucoma or any pain in the eye or any hypertension. Therefore, we recommend that they should be screened, and they will then be screened.
CEOCFO: When you are working with AI, how do you know when you have enough data? How do you know, “Okay this is it, this is the tipping point, we have enough so that this is really good to go?”
Dr. Bhuiyan: With AI, it is how your model learns. For example, you learn how to distinguish one pattern from another pattern. If the difference is really very subtle, you will need many, many examples. If the difference is between red and white, then two examples are sufficient? This AI is a very, very smart model. It can tell how much error your model is facing based on your current data. It is defining your data and tells you if you need more data.
CEOCFO: Did you always see putting together your computer science and biomedical engineering? How did it come about that those two things came together for you?
Dr. Bhuiyan: They seem to have done nicely, right?
CEOCFO: They did! I am just wondering if that was your original plan?
Dr. Bhuiyan: My original plan was to stay in computer science, and I never wanted to look into the business or medical side. Slowly and gradually, over the last sixteen years, it merged into this medical area. I started with the image processing on the computer side and how your computer is performing efficiently and accurately.
I did not want to learn what is going on in terms of the pathology of the disease, but slowly I thought that maybe I should be looking into these, like how my device can be making more of an impact, like what are the stages of the pathologies. That is how you enter. Every day was like you are learning, and that is how you emerge into this biomedical area.
CEOCFO: Are you funded for your next steps?
Dr. Bhuiyan: My next step is in terms of product development, yes. In terms of the clinical trial, yes. However, in terms of commercialization, I am looking forward to working with investors and partners.
CEOCFO: When you are approaching people, do they understand the concept?
Dr. Bhuiyan: In terms of the scientific community, yes. Our work was featured in ARVO 2018, the largest ophthalmology conference. Last year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also featured our work with discussing in the AAO panel.
I started speaking with investors where I could see some interest. So far, I focus on fine-
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about heart and stroke? What are you looking at there?
Dr. Bhuiyan: In terms of stroke, 90 percent of strokes are preventable. This is what research says funded by NIH. We want to look at the individual’s current health status, like the individual’s age, gender, race, particular body mass index. We are also looking in the retinal image and build the AI model, and then we are predicting if someone is going to have a stroke or a heart attack in 5 years.
CEOCFO: There are so many new ideas to look at. Why iHealthScreen?
Dr. Bhuiyan: First of all, we are saving people from blindness. The vision side is so important, and our device can really save people from blindness through early diagnosis. Secondly, we also focus on stroke and heart disease prediction. Remember that we are funded by NIH (so far ~$2.5M), and we are really addressing a very significant area, and that is why NIH is funding us. In the area that we are focusing on, we are changing lives, adding values with health and wellness to mankind, the community, and to individual’s health.
iHealthScreen Inc. | Alauddin Bhuiyan Ph.D. | AMD Screening | Age-
“At iHealthScreen, we aim to use AI for scalably screen retinal diseases, and stroke, and heart disease for early diagnosis and intervention, which can save countless lives and save people from blindness along with massive amounts of downstream spending.”
Alauddin Bhuiyan Ph.D.