Owkin publishes breakthrough research in Nature Medicine: Novel deep-learning approach for predicting and explaining the key prognostic factors in Mesothelioma


Tags: Cancer


Date:October 7th, 2019


Owkin publishes breakthrough research in Nature Medicine: Novel deep-learning approach for predicting and explaining the key prognostic factors in Mesothelioma

Paris and New York, October 7th, 2019

Owkin, which is developing machine learning technologies to advance medical research, today announces the publication of a paper in Nature Medicine that showcases its breakthrough analysis of tumour biology using interpretable deep-learning models. The paper entitled ‘Deep learning-based classification of mesothelioma improves prediction of patient outcomes’ describes how Owkin has developed a detailed and accurate prognostic model based on images of lung tissue biopsies to predict disease evolution and to identify associated biological features in mesothelioma. Read the paper

Thomas Clozel, Chief Executive Officer, Owkin

Mesothelioma is aggressive cancer that often attacks the lining of the lungs and is frequently associated with asbestos exposure. Sadly, it proves to be fatal for most patients. Patients with mesothelioma exhibit very high variability in survival, from a few months to a few years, and this makes it challenging for doctors to plan treatment and care for these patients. Our research helps to explain the biological causes of this variation and will ultimately lead to the development of more targeted drugs and better management of this terrible disease.

Owkin’s deep learning model, called MesoNet, was used to analyse digital Whole Slide Images (WSI) of pleural surgical biopsies from nearly 3000 mesothelioma patients. To train and test MesoNet, Owkin used the extensive dataset from MESOBANK, which sources its data from multiple French institutions. Medical experts in pathology at the renowned French Cancer Institute, Centre Leon Berard (CLB) provided expert validation of the model results, confirming that MesoNet outperformed all existing survival models and demonstrated robustness to heterogeneity when it was successfully validated on differently stained images from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TGCA). Beyond its predictive performance and this novel way to characterize mesothelioma subgroups, the deep learning model developed by Owkin was also able to highlight precise regions of interest in the image that are associated with the prognosis prediction. This key interpretability feature, combined with an original iterative collaboration with expert pathologists using Owkin software platform, has led to the identification of novel biological features that supports a deeper explanation of heterogeneity in this disease.

Françoise Galateau, Professor of Pathology at Centre Leon Berard

It was a great experience for our lab to work closely with the Owkin scientists to identify new subgroups within our patient population. The collaboration exceeded our expectations. As well as improving our prognostic models, MesoNet was able to identify new biomarkers within the stromal regions of the tumour microenvironment that were predictive of survival. This ability really sets Owkin’s AI models apart and has given us a new direction in our research into mesothelioma.

Owkin is now working with its partners in the biopharmaceutical industry to use this insight for enriching patient selection in clinical trials and identifying which patients are most at risk and therefore best suited for new druggable approaches in a trial setting. Owkin’s innovative model of collaboration between academia and the biopharmaceutical industry is generating new insights from real-world evidence captured from patients in trials and clinical practice. It has set up our federated network of US and European academic medical centres, which includes Centre Leon Berard.

Gilles Wainrib, Chief Scientific Officer, Owkin

Owkin’s Technology enables our algorithms to learn from the patient data within hospital firewalls, without removing the data from the hospital. This scalable approach protects patient privacy and assures our hospital partners and their patients that the data is kept safe and secure. This capability, alongside the interpretable approach to AI discussed in this Nature Medicine paper (NMED-L95980B), is fast making Owkin federated network the leading destination medical researchers and drug development professionals gain predictive insight and leverage next-generation biomarkers. Ultimately, we hope that it will accelerate the development of better therapies for patients with the greatest need.

About Centre Léon Bérard

The Centre Léon Bérard (CLB) is part of the twenty French Comprehensive Cancer Centres in France, providing global management of cancer patients in a unique area, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. The Centre is a regional, national and international recognized reference cancer Centre assigned with three essential missions: Care, Research and Education and is willing to continuously improve the quality and accessibility of care for cancer patients. Approx. 1,700 persons work in care, research, education and supportive care (200 physicians, 500 researchers, 600 caregivers). More than 37,000 patients are received each year, on consultations or exams and 11,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed. The CLB has technical and treatment facilities (operating room, radiation therapy centre, medical imaging departments, pathology and nuclear medicine departments).

About Owkin

Owkin is a French-American startup that uses artificial intelligence to find the right treatment for every patient. Our focus is to use AI to discover and develop better treatments for unmet medical needs, starting with the fight against cancer.

We use AI to identify new drug candidates, de-risk and accelerate clinical trials and build diagnostic tools that improve patient outcomes. Using federated learning, a pioneering collaborative AI framework, Owkin enables medical and biopharma partners to unlock valuable insights from siloed datasets while protecting patient privacy and securing proprietary data. 

Owkin was co-founded by Thomas Clozel MD, a former assistant professor in clinical onco-hematology, and Gilles Wainrib, a pioneer in the field of machine learning in biology, in 2016. Owkin has raised over $300 million and became a unicorn through a $180 million investment from biopharma company Sanofi in November 2021.