Thai hospital partners with New York health tech startup

Bumrungrad International, a Bangkok hospital with a sterling global reputation, announced last week it is partnering with New York-based tech startup Biotia to pilot artificial intelligence-driven (AI) technology that would detect pathogens and drug resistance faster and more accurately than current tests.

Bumrungrad is the first hospital in the Asia-Pacific region that the American startup is partnering with to expand its international network, said Niamh O’Hara, co-founder and chief executive of Biotia. Her company was keen to work with Bumrungrad because “the hospital is an early adopter of health technology innovation and has a diverse sample of international patients,’’ she said.

Drug resistance, particularly resistant to existing antibiotics, is a growing problem around the world and especially in Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 40,000 patients in Thailand died last year because of antibiotics resistance, the organization said. The global figure is 700,000, and the organization predicts 10 million deaths a year by 2050.

The current methods for testing pathogenic cultures to determine if a patient is resistant to a specific antibiotic are time-consuming and expensive. Biotia’s technology makes that process more rapid and affordable. The average time for testing is now three days, but the Biotia technology can produce results in as fast as six hours.

Dr. Somsak Chaovistsaree, chief executive of medical doctors at Bumrungrad, said the hospital and Biotia “have partnered to develop AI and health-related technology to analyze, diagnose and treat cases involving drug-resistant pathogens and next-generation sequence-based pathogen detection.

“This one-year pilot project collaboration to collect 1,000 samples will help collect big data based in the hospital and strengthen the hospital in advanced medical technology, moving towards med tech 4.0,” Dr. Somsak said.

O’Hara said the technology would be instrumental in detecting resistance in cases of fungal infections and tuberculosis, which are more common in Thailand and other developing countries than in advanced countries.

Bumrungrad is among Thailand’s largest and best-known private hospitals and has been profiled on the American newsmagazine television program 60 Minutes. It treats over 1 million patients a year about 400,000 of which come from overseas because of the quality of its medical services, its relative affordability and lack of waiting lists for most procedures.