Entrepreneur’s Market: A smart way to fight cancer

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In 2017, junior doctors Bhavagaya Bakshi (Medicine, 2011) and Miles Payling founded C the Signs – a digital health start-up that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help doctors diagnose cancer early.

They are part of the King’s20 Accelerator – a  year-long programme run by the King’s Entrepreneurship Institute based at Bush House, that supports the 20 brightest ventures from King’s to reach their potential.

We caught up with Miles and Bhavagaya to discuss how technology can make a difference.

What inspired you to create C the Signs?

BHAVAGAYA: When I was training to be a GP, a seriously ill patient came into the hospital who had pancreatic cancer that had spread significantly. He had seen his GP a number of times in six months, but he’d been misdiagnosed and given other treatment. If the cancer had been caught earlier, things could have been different. From this situation, Miles and I became obsessed with the importance of early diagnosis in cancer treatment.

MILES: I looked at the main barriers to quick diagnosis. The majority of diagnostic tools available to doctors are paper-based, horrendously long, and impractical to use in an eight to 10 minute GP appointment.

How does C the Signs use artificial intelligence (AI)?

BHAVAGAYA: We use the latest evidence to create high-functioning algorithms which optimise and prioritise outcomes. Using the data collected through the tool, we use machine learning to predict what the cancer incidence may be in certain areas.

MILES: The second way we’ve used AI is to streamline cancer pathways. Through tracking the service needs of a community, the tool identifies what capacity is needed for cancer services, and real-time changes can then be made if needed.

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How has the King’s20 Accelerator programme contributed to what you’ve achieved with your business so far?

MILES: It’s helped a massive amount to get feedback on the tool early on. We’re doctors and have had no economic or management training, so the guidance has been fantastic.

BHAVAGAYA: We’ve been asked questions  like, ‘You’ve got a tool and you’ve got this vision, so how do you make it tangible?’, ‘Who do you need to engage?’, ‘How do you build a tool that will stick with users?’. This has opened us up to think more laterally and creatively.

What do you think the future holds regarding technology and healthcare?

BHAVAGAYA: Technology won’t replace doctors, but it can play a part as an enabler – for example, in recording and interpreting data.

MILES: In the next 10 to 20 years, there is a huge growth potential for personalised medicine. The GP’s role would also evolve if their time can be freed up to focus more on delivering care and helping people stay healthy.

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