SCOPE 2024

Revolutionizing healthcare with clinical AI: Google for medical records

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Mendel AI
© Mendel AI

Related tags Google Artificial intelligence machine learning Research Patient centricity

Creating artificial intelligence to understand medical conditions, and not just the English language, sounds far-fetched, but this is what one CEO is achieving with an impressive foundational innovation.

Going many steps further than just reshaping technology, Dr Karim Galil has been a big part of creating a platform likened to the 'Google for medical records'.

Throughout modern medicine, the journey towards innovation and progress often stems from personal experiences and the desire to end human suffering. Driven by a profound understanding of the challenges within the healthcare industry and fueled by a vision to transform patient care, is where the journey of Mendel, a clinical AI company, began.

Mendel’s story started with Galil, who was confronted with the harsh realities of cancer treatment.  He took time out of  his busy SCOPE schedule to tell us his story.

To begin, he reflects on the analogy of oncology as a game of Russian roulette, where patients endure grueling treatments with uncertain outcomes. He was directly inspired by personal experiences, involving his aunt.

“My aunt was a cancer patient and she had been a super-strong businesswoman; she was a big hustler and confident. One day I saw her fall in the bathroom and at that point, I knew chemotherapy wasn’t going to do anything for her. I just wish she had been able to live those last few months gracefully.

“If someone has a terminal illness, they will try every route, but I wish someone had been able to tell her, this isn’t going to work in your case. She had bad lung cancer and I think that is the moment I felt I had to build something.”

He says he started envisioning a paradigm shift in healthcare—a world where data-driven insights could guide treatment decisions, sparing patients unnecessary suffering.

Google for medical records

The spark for Mendel was truly ignited when Galil recognized the inefficiencies embedded in current medical practices. Despite the digitalization of health records, valuable data remained siloed and inaccessible. The vision crystallized this need for a ‘Google for medical records,’ a platform where insights derived from aggregated data could empower physicians with actionable intelligence.

Galil encountered numerous hurdles. Building a clinical AI company from scratch demanded not only technical expertise but also a deep understanding of healthcare nuances. The distinction between shapers, who merely adapt existing technologies, and makers, who pioneer foundational innovations, became evident. Mendel chose the latter path, committing to develop AI tailored specifically for clinical applications.

“If you think of the health care system, there are the providers, the doctors, then there are the companies like diagnostic, pharma companies and so on. Mendel focuses on pharma and diagnostic companies and not essentially on the doctors. This is because it's very hard to adopt technologists when it comes to the acquisition practice.

“When we go to a big diagnostic company that is swimming in data, it's easier to convince them with a value proposal. So essentially, it would be the same in any country, you want to go where the money is and start from there.”

Armed with a team of AI scientists and fueled by substantial investments, Mendel embarked on its mission. The company's trajectory unfolded in phases, with a primary focus on oncology—a domain ripe with complexities. The initial phase involved aggregating vast troves of medical data and collaborating closely with diagnostic companies possessing extensive repositories of patient records.

He adds: “Maybe in five years, Mendel will launch this product directly to patients. Today patients all go to Dr Google, even if they say they don’t, but Google is only reading the internet – it is not reading medical records. I don’t think you can start with patients because you don’t want them out of pocket, so it is pretty hard to start there but eventually that is how it is going to work, almost like a GPT type of experience where you provide your medical records and ask what works for me, it will scan every other relevant medical record and then tell you.”

Mendel's platform represents a paradigm shift in healthcare intelligence. Unlike generic AI solutions, Mendel's AI is purpose-built for clinical contexts, capable of understanding medical nuances and providing actionable insights. By democratizing access to valuable data and streamlining the query process, Mendel empowers healthcare stakeholders to make informed decisions swiftly.

'A lot of AI pilots will fail'

Galil continues: “My co-founder is an AI scientist, and we were able to convince big venture capitalist firms to invest in Mendel four years ago. We told them we were going to build AI from scratch and that they shouldn't expect sales from us in the next four years or so. And we were lucky to have fortunate investors. The company raised around $70 million.”

As Mendel continues to innovate and expand its capabilities, the vision extends beyond oncology. The ultimate goal, Galil says, is to revolutionize healthcare by offering a comprehensive platform that transcends therapeutic areas. Driven by a commitment to long-term impact, the company remains steadfast in its pursuit of transforming healthcare delivery worldwide.

“When you get an AI from Google and train it on medical records, that's essentially what it is, it is reading English, but it doesn't understand if this is a particular symptom or a side effect. Mendel has made the AI we built something foundationally for the healthcare system. I think that's what's unique about the company, we took the hard route. We didn't shape an existing technology we built a foundationally new technology,” Galil says.

“We launched our life data, the alpha version a year ago, and we launched the more advanced one last quarter. Now we have an interface where you can ask questions and it answers those questions for you but with one big difference, it understands medicine, like a physician, not just like an English speaker.”

Galil says he believes the AI space is going through a new phase where everyone is buying it as a pilot as every CEO of every big pharma or diagnostic company wants AI in their company.

“I think a lot of those pilots will fail because people will quickly figure out that it is smoke and mirrors. It's going to be crucial for me to keep the business and wait for all things to settle down, and fail, for people to start appreciating all that we have built over the last few years. I think we are here for long-term need, not short-term greed.

Mendel says it epitomizes the intersection of innovation and compassion within healthcare. It underscores the transformative potential of clinical AI in reshaping traditional paradigms and enhancing patient outcomes.

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