Funding secured to further study of AI systems for cardiovascular health


Digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) company Eko has been awarded a US$2.7 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant will fund the continued collaborative work with Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, Chicago, USA to validate algorithms to aid screening for pathologic heart murmurs and valvular heart disease.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the USA, and valvular heart disease often goes undetected because of the challenge of hearing murmurs with traditional stethoscopes, particularly in noisy or busy environments. A highly accurate clinical decision support algorithm that is able to detect and classify valvular heart disease will help improve accuracy of diagnosis and the detection of potential cardiac abnormalities at the earliest possible time, allowing for timely intervention,” said James D Thomas, director of the Center for Heart Valve Disease at Northwestern Medicine and the clinical study’s principal investigator. “Our work with Eko aspires to extend the auscultatory expertise of cardiologists to more general practitioners to better serve our patient community, playing a pivotal role in growing the future of cardiovascular medicine.”

Eko and Northwestern first announced their collaboration in March 2019 to provide a simpler, lower-cost way for clinicians to identify patients with heart disease without the use of screening tools such as echocardiograms which are typically only available at specialty clinics. By incorporating data from tens of thousands of heart patterns into the stethoscope and its algorithms, clinicians will have cardiologist-level precision in detecting subtle abnormalities from normal sounds, Eko said in a press release.

“This SBIR award from the NIH underscores our vision to provide world-class cardiovascular care at the patient’s point of care,” said Adam Saltman, chief medical officer at Eko. “We believe that the integration of these deep learning algorithms into the Eko platform that is currently used by more than 1,000 institutions worldwide will lead to earlier diagnosis and better patient outcomes. Our mission is to change how cardiovascular disease is diagnosed, and as one of the first centres in the country to study AI and cardiovascular disease, Northwestern is an ideal partner to help us reach our goal.”


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