AI system that slashes diagnosis time for eye diseases wins gold at Techblazer Awards

Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo (left) fist-bumping Mr Lai Teik Kin, chief executive of EyRIS, at the Techblazer Awards 2021 on Jan 24, 2022. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - An artificial intelligence (AI) deep learning system (DLS) that reduces the diagnosis process for eye diseases from an average of 30 minutes to just 8½ minutes won the gold award under the Most Promising Innovation category at the fourth annual Techblazer Awards on Monday (Jan 24).

The Techblazer Awards are the nation's highest accolade for tech innovation.

The 2021 awards saw more than 440 nominations, up from 403 submissions in 2020, and the highest number of nominations in a single year since the awards' inception in 2018.

Monday's ceremony took place at Suntec City Convention Centre and was graced by Minister of for Communications and Information Josephine Teo.

The Singapore Eye LEson Analyzer+ (SELENA+), which was developed by Singapore Eye Research Institute and the National University of Singapore School of Computing in partnership with local healthtech company EyRIS, automatically grades fundus images - or images on the inside, back surface of the eye - and detects eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, to limit the effects of preventable blindness.

Mr Steven Ang, 47, EyRIS senior vice-president for business development, told The Straits Times that the traditional diagnosis process, which involves sending the fundus images to a human grader, takes about a day to yield results.

"Based on our technology, you can send the image online and onto the cloud service, and we actually return the results to the patient within 15 to 20 seconds," he added.

Selena+ has been implemented at all polyclinics here as part of a programme to conduct eye screenings for diabetic patients.

In the private sector, 20 optometry stores and several general practitioner clinics under the Primary Care Network have also implemented the AI-powered DLS.

Globally, SELENA+ has been deployed in 22 countries, and EyRIS is looking to expand into other markets including China and the United States.

By the end of the year, the company also hopes to develop new verticals that can detect other conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, stroke and cardiovascular diseases, using the same fundus images.

Another winner at the Techblazer Awards was a team from the National University of Singapore and Singapore University of Technology and Design, who received a gold award under the Student Techblazer category for Skilio, an AI-powered digital soft skills portfolio.

The AI uses natural language processing to identify skillsets of users - from students in secondary schools to post-graduates - based on the co-curricular activity (CCA), competition and internship experiences that they upload onto the platform.

Mr Felix Tan Jia Song, 25, founder and chief executive of Skilio, told ST: "I think as students ourselves, we realised that when it comes to interviews with employers, we may not have much work experience, but soft skills gained from volunteering trips or CCAs can help to showcase our ability to do the job."

Mr Felix Tan, founder of Skilio, which received a gold award in the Student Techblazer category. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Skilio has about 4,000 users and has currently matched 225 of them to employers for short-term internships or industry projects.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Mrs Teo requested all innovators present to ensure that their solutions always put the safety and well-being of people as a priority.

"By all means, help to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but always keep in mind the end users of your innovations, the people affected by them, be they workers, customers or suppliers," she said.

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