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Disease outbreaksHarnessing AI to catch disease fast

Published 28 August 2017

Up to 27,000 microbiology laboratories around the world could benefit from a ground-breaking automation technology. The Automated Plate Assessment System (APAS) can automatically screen microbiology culture plates for the presence of various disease-causing pathogens, revolutionizing the workflow in modern microbiology labs. The smart software uses artificial intelligence to analyze microbial growth in much the same way as a microbiologist would, but with faster and more consistent results.

Up to 27,000 microbiology laboratories around the world could benefit from a ground-breaking automation technology developed at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Center for Visual Technologies (ACVT), in collaboration with one of the leading medical technology companies, LBT Innovations.

The Automated Plate Assessment System (APAS) can automatically screen microbiology culture plates for the presence of various disease-causing pathogens, revolutionizing the workflow in modern microbiology labs. The smart software uses artificial intelligence to analyze microbial growth in much the same way as a microbiologist would, but with faster and more consistent results.

Adelaide says that APAS, born from a pioneering partnership between the University and Adelaide-based LBT, is in the final stages of development in a significant joint venture with the instrumentation company, Hettich AG Switzerland. It is the perfect collaboration; LBT brings its extensive market knowledge and product development expertise, while Hettich provides some of the world’s finest medical engineering and manufacturing credentials.

The deal also ensures that LBT Innovations will continue to play a leading role in the product’s future development and commercialization. The company has already employed three Adelaide-based technical staff specifically to support its APAS program, as well as a Quality Assurance Manager to support clinical trials ahead of key regulatory submissions later this year.

APAS has its roots in a system that the Adelaide University research center developed for defense and security purposes, but the partnership with LBT unearthed its significant microbiology and healthcare potential.

The core technology is currently being made commercially robust under contract with two Australian engineering companies, with the first APAS instruments due to be manufactured in Europe. The innovative system will address the issue of microbiology labs needing to analyze more culture plates with fewer staff and resources, and often with more critical deadlines.

Adelaide notes that in May this year, some of the world’s leading microbiologists were introduced to APAS at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, an annual event that brings together more than 10,000 microbiologists, infectious disease specialists, and diagnostic companies. The strategic focus of the Australian Center for Visual Technologies is on impact, and there is no doubt that the clever minds behind APAS will soon be having a major impact on the world of microbiology.