UCLA and Theseus AI announce license agreement for technology that interprets spine MRIs

UCLA signed a license agreement with Theseus AI for technology developed at UCLA that uses artificial intelligence to interpret MRI scans of patients’ spines.

Developed by a team of UCLA researchers, the software suite is intended to provide health care professionals with data that helps diagnose and treat back pain, and can help identify people who would be candidates for spine surgery. Theseus AI is a Los Angeles-based startup that was formed to commercialize the technology.

Led by Dr. Luke Macyszyn, a neurosurgeon at the UCLA Spine Center, the team created an algorithm trained by machine learning to provide objective measurements of spinal stenosis — the narrowing of spaces within the spine — from MRIs. The algorithm also compares the measurements to those of patients of the same gender and similar age and height to determine the degree of the disease. Theseus will integrate the algorithm into picture archiving, communication systems and electronic health records to provide radiologists, surgeons and primary care physicians with accurate and consistent identification and measurement of key features of the spine.

“Providing clinicians with more objective data to support their decision-making will ultimately lead to better identification of candidates for surgical treatments and better outcomes,” Macyszyn said.

Macyszyn collaborated on the research with Bilwaj Gaonkar, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in bioengineering. Their work, which was funded in part by the UCLA Innovation Fund and the National Institutes of Health, has led to papers in in several publications, including the RSNA journal Radiology: Artificial Intelligence.

The agreement with Theseus AI was facilitated by the UCLA Technology Development Group, which manages UCLA’s intellectual property portfolio and the Innovation Fund. Theseus AI builds software to improve the identification, consistency and accuracy of anatomical measurements, to deliver accurate and consistent data to clinicians.

“The agreement with Theseus AI further validates our model of leveraging internal funding to bridge the gap between academia and external interest,” said Thomas Lipkin, the Technology Development Group’s director of the Innovation Fund and new ventures. “This was one of several projects from the UCLA Innovation Fund that we believe can be successfully commercialized to advance medical care.”


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