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Saudi university developing AI for early diabetes detection

Kaust hopes its new project will improve diabetes testing Unsplash/Sweet Life
Kaust hopes its new project will improve diabetes testing
  • AI tech to help detect diabetes
  • Could save SAR2bn
  • Kingdom aims to be biotech leader

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) said this week it is working with Saudi company AmplifAI Health to develop AI technology for use in the early detection of diabetes. 

Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular are investing in health technologies that can predict medical risk and help develop medicines, and the kingdom has announced a drive to lead the region in biotechnology

Some experts believe that fast food consumption in the region has led to increased levels of diabetes.

“The collaboration will first test the method to detect and manage diabetic foot complications,” the state-owned Saudi Press Agency (Spa) said on January 29, adding that clinical trials are being planned. 

“The goal is to detect diabetes early, develop better treatment protocols, and significantly reduce the need for lower limb amputations.” 

Spa said the initiative could save Saudi Arabia more than SAR2 billion ($530 million) annually in medical costs and reduce the number of diabetic foot amputations carried out worldwide every year – currently 1.5 million.

The technology developed by Kaust uses hyperspectral imaging technology known as HyplexTM photography that can collect terabyte-sized data in one second. This exceeds the gigabyte size of current commercial cameras, and is claimed to aid early disease detection. 

AmplifAI Health is a private company focusing on advanced AI and thermology, founded by experts in digital health, cybersecurity and AI. 

Kaust, located north of Jeddah, was established by the government in 2009 as the country’s leading research university. 

Saudi Arabia launched a National Biotechnology Strategy this month with the aim of becoming the region’s biotech leader by 2030 and a global leader by 2040, contributing 3 percent, or SAR130 billion, to non-oil GDP.

The plan will focus on making Saudi Arabia the regional market leader in genomics, vaccines, plant optimisation and biomanufacturing, creating 11,000 jobs by 2030. 

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a massive economic development plan to diversify away from oil, centred on giga-projects that aim to attract tourists, create jobs for Saudis, and make the kingdom a hub for green industries. 

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