The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded GE HealthCare a $44m grant to develop artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted ultrasound imaging auto-assessment tools.

The auto-assessment tools are expected to expand ultrasound access to low and middle-income countries by allowing information captured by the ultrasound scan to be evaluated by healthcare professionals without the need for specialised training or experience.

GE’s Caption Health division will be responsible for designing the AI-assisted auto-assessment tools. GE acquired Caption Health in February 2023.

GE HealthCare ultrasound president and CEO Roland Rott said: “Ultrasound is an essential tool for screening and diagnosis of various medical conditions, including the health of expectant mothers and managing respiratory diseases.

“However, a key limitation is the guidance of lesser-skilled users to effectively apply affordable point-of-care ultrasound in their care environment. This grant will help bring Caption Health’s leading AI technology customised to more users, and therefore contribute to increased access to higher-quality medical care.”

The AI-assisted ultrasound auto-assessment tools would be used to support obstetric and lung screening ultrasound scans to improve maternal and foetal health outcomes and reduce mortality.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the development of a number of medical devices and software for disease diagnosis, treatment and prediction over the years.  In July, Aptitude Medical Systems revealed a partnership with the foundation to accelerate the development of its point-of-care STI diagnostic test.

In 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding to Caption to develop Cardiac Guidance software, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same year.

GE’s wireless continuous monitoring device, Portrait Mobile, received FDA 510(k) clearance last month. The device monitors the patient’s vital signs and allows for early intervention.