In Coralville, the artificial intelligence company VIDA Diagnostics is adapting.

Beyond sending the staff of about 30 home for remote work, VIDA Diagnostics also sent home a few heavy-duty computers so staff could continue processing data streaming from 35 countries. 

“We call it business as unusual and just accept it,” said CEO Susan Wood. 

In the COVID-19 respiratory disease outbreak, it’s very clear to the staff what kind of impact the artificial intelligence-based diagnostics software has. VIDA Diagnostics specializes in identifying signs of underlying pulmonary disease in patients. Using a data bank of CT imaging, the AI software LungPrint Discovery can identify hallmarks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and other chronic conditions. 

“If you look at lung disease patients, they don’t have these diseases in clear swim lanes. They cross over,” Wood said. “One of the fundamentals of VIDA is that we look at lung disease very holistically … and how these comorbidities can affect the patients’ management, or their response to different therapeutics.” 

With an existing expertise in pulmonary disease, VIDA Diagnostics has the ability to adapt quickly to identify COVID-19 hallmarks. For now, the company’s initial focus is identifying patients who have other underlying chronic respiratory conditions to assist treatment. The company’s software gives health care workers a fast analysis of a patient’s underlying risk for disease before staff attempt different treatments. 

“The ones that are most susceptible for really critical care … are ones that have some level of underlying lung disease. They’re older, they have maybe some other pulmonary disease, they may have other conditions too,” Wood said. “The COPD patients that we deal with every day have this added susceptibility [to] COVID-19, and they’re going to have a greater likelihood of a significant event.” 

VIDA Diagnostics is also parsing through data to identify imaging-based biomarkers, which are measurable indicators of disease hallmarks taken by an imaging process. Once identified, eventually VIDA Diagnostics’ AI software could be used to identify those biomarkers throughout respiratory medical trials to track the progression of potential COVID-19 treatments in patients. 

“AI solutions starve for data; you almost never get enough,” Wood said. 

In the long term, Wood sees VIDA Diagnostics stepping in to identify COVID-19 and other chronic conditions when a patient would potentially undergo a CT scan for other reasons — before health care providers would even suspect a patient to be experiencing COVID-19, or potential complications from a past fight with the disease. Patients being tested for COVID-19 will likely continue to be tested via a swab, but CT scans will help monitor patients over time and give a fuller understanding of the disease risk patients face in the future. 

“We’re expecting this disease to be around for a while, and we’re also expecting a recurrence … a potential COVID-22 that may come up,” Wood said. “Once we start collecting cases and seeing how the patient progresses, what happens to the patient after they get the disease … those are the ways that we’re looking at our solution to be able to help. It’s not just the identification of a new case, but really how those more advanced [cases], how we would monitor them over time.” 

“The biggest focus right now is on monitoring those patients that have been diagnosed. They’re likely going to have some ongoing condition,” she added. 

VIDA Diagnostics is relying on industry partners to introduce the platform to medical workers operating in a crisis situation, who don’t have a lot of mental bandwidth right now to learn entirely new technologies, Wood said. VIDA has integrated its software with radiology reporting platforms to lower the accessibility bar. 

“Our focus is getting the software in with as little impact on that clinician’s current activity, and making the sales experience and the utilization experiences as streamlined as possible,” Wood said. “In a crisis situation, you have to augment what the clinical sites currently have rather than forcing something new.” 

VIDA Diagnostics CEO named Joe Rosenfield Award winner; company closes finance round with Next Level Ventures
VIDA Diagnostics CEO Susan Wood is the 2020 Joe Rosenfield Award winner for outstanding leadership, Next Level Ventures announced in a statement. VIDA Diagnostics was recently named the 2020 Global Company of the Year by Frost & Sullivan, and in early March closed an $11 million financing round with Next Level Ventures.