Using AI to save the lives of mothers and babies

As part of our SLAS Europe 2022 coverage, we speak with Professor Patricia Maguire from University College Dublin about their AI_PREMie technology and how it can help save the lives of mothers and babies.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what inspired your career in artificial intelligence (AI)?

My name is Patricia Maguire and I am Professor of Biochemistry at University College, Dublin (UCD). Four years ago, I was appointed director of the UCD Institute for Discovery, a major university research institute in UCD, and our focus is on cultivating interdisciplinary research. In that role, I first became enthusiastic about the possibilities of integrating AI into my research.

AI has received more attention in recent years, especially with regard to its application in healthcare settings. Despite this, there are still hurdles to overcome before it becomes commonplace in research. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges around the adoption of AI in clinical settings?

I think there are two major obstacles to adopting AI in healthcare. The first is that when it comes to actually deploying that AI in a real-world clinical environment, there’s a significant gap between that lab-based technology development to deploying it in the clinic and making it operational. The second is that once that AI is operationalized, frontline workers may struggle to adopt it. Employees get very busy and their time is precious. We need to provide them with practical solutions that provide them with reliable results that improve their clinical decision-making.

Image Credit: Jsnow my wolrd/

You are currently director of the ConwaySPHERE research group at University College Dublin. Can you tell us more about this research group and its missions?

Together with my hematologic colleagues, Professor Fionnuala Ní inle and Dr. Barry Kevane, I co-direct the UCD Conway SPHERE Research Group. Our mission is to understand and help diagnose inflammatory diseases, and we work together as a group of clinicians, academic staff and scientists, working together nationally and internationally.

For AI_PREMie, it’s a truly transdisciplinary team that we’ve brought together – made up of clinicians and frontline staff from the three maternity wards in Dublin. With this we have covered 50% of all births in Ireland. We brought these hospitals together with a large number of scientists from University College Dublin and data scientists from the industry, namely the SAS Institute and Microsoft. The mission of the entire AI_PREMie team is to bring this prototype test to every woman who needs it worldwide, because we believe we will save lives.

You will give a lecture at SLAS Europe 2022 entitled ‘AI_PREMie: Saving Mothers and Babies’ Lives Using AI’. What will you discuss in this talk and what can people expect?

I will discuss our AI PREMIE project, which brings together advanced biochemical, clinical and machine learning expertise. Bringing them together, we have developed a new prototype test for risk stratification in preeclampsia.


As shown in your latest study, AI_PREMie can accurately help diagnose preeclampsia, a serious complication that affects one in ten pregnancies. What are the benefits of an accurate diagnosis of preeclampsia not only for the women and their babies, but also for the health care system?

Every year, 50,000 women and 500,000 babies are lost to preeclampsia, and another 5 million babies are born prematurely – sometimes very early – due to preeclampsia. It’s easy to see how devastating preeclampsia is as a condition: it affects our most vulnerable in society, their entire families and their entire communities.

If we can diagnose preeclampsia in a much faster way, we can deliver efficient, effective health care that can have a huge impact on social well-being. This way we can not only prevent premature births, but we can also save lives.

What are some advantages of using AI tools such as AI_PREMie in diagnosis compared to current diagnostic methods?

No significant advances have been made in the diagnosis of preeclampsia. We still use screening tests that were introduced decades ago. We look at high blood pressure and we look at protein in the urine when we screen these women, and sometimes these statistics don’t predict the outcome.

There is simply no test available to tell a doctor that a woman has preeclampsia. There’s also no test to predict how that preeclampsia will progress. This means there is no test to tell a doctor or midwife when that baby is due. AI PREMIE, our prototype test, will hopefully not only diagnose preeclampsia, but in a sense predict the future and tell the doctor the best time to give birth to that baby — because every day in the womb for that baby counts.

Do you hope that with continued innovation in artificial intelligence, we will see more clinical practices turning to this technology to help healthcare? What would this mean for global health?

The field of AI is moving so fast and healthcare is trying to keep up. I envision a future where our health information will be available to us, just like our banking information: securely, maybe even on our cell phones, and in that way we can take global health to treat disease to a state where we predict disease and prevent disease. to prevent.


Image Credit: Chompoo Suriyo/

Do you think AI_PREMie can also be applied to other clinical diagnoses? What further research would need to be done before this could be possible?

The patented biomarkers underlying AI PREMIE are derived from the information stored in the platelets of sick, pregnant women, and we studied that information or that “cargo” stored in the platelets. We know that this is a marker – a form of a barcode – of a person’s health status. In our lab we are currently looking at this payload in other diseases related to inflammation and vascular dysfunction of the platelets. We are currently running projects on multiple sclerosis, cancer-associated thrombosis and also COVID-19 to see if we can find new platelet biomarkers for these diseases.

Are there certain areas where you’re excited to see AI integrated into the life sciences sector?

We demonstrated in our project that integrating AI into data-driven life sciences projects has the potential to be truly transformative. If you look at what’s available now, eye diseases can be detected using neural networks from three-dimensional retinal scans, but even in intensive care there are now AI-based sepsis warnings, which is driving the number of sepsis deaths in these hospitals. The potential is just so exciting.

AI and healthcare

Image Credit: elenabsl/

What’s next for you and the ConwaySPHERE research group?

Next year, excitingly, we plan to bring AI PREMIe across Ireland – so we want to increase recruiting and data collection across Ireland and grow the group even more.

Where can readers find more information?


Twitter: @maguirepatr @AIPREMie #AI_PREMie

Instagram: AI_PREMie


About Professor Patricia Maguire

Patricia Maguire is an interdisciplinary scientist and inventor with a passion for the intersection of artificial intelligence and biomedical sciences. She is Professor of Biochemistry at University College Dublin and Director of the UCD Institute for Discovery. This institute recently launched the UCD AI Healthcare hub (AIHH), with the ambition to transform care at the individual level to the system level.Patricia Maguire

Patricia’s own research focuses on platelets and extracellular vesicles in various inflammatory diseases, including preeclampsia, multiple sclerosis, arterial and venous thrombosis, cancer-associated thrombosis and covid19. She has published widely, including the journals Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, Proteomics, and Blood.

Through her unique expertise, she has developed a custom diagnostic platform PALADIN (PlAteLet based DIAgNostics) that combines the power of platelets in blood to detect their environment with advanced omics technologies and artificial intelligence to reveal secrets of health and disease.

Patricia has used PALADIN to discover patented diagnostic that can diagnose preeclampsia in sick pregnant women; the multi-award winning AI_PREMie project. She also has a pipeline of potential new disruptive diagnostics from other projects in her lab. She works with industry across multiple sectors, including Bayer AG, Sanofi, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, Google and SAS.

Patricia is an advocate and mentor of women in STEM. In 2018, she won a UCD Values ​​in Action award for her work on equality, diversity and inclusion in UCD and bringing the values ​​of creativity, collegiality and engagement to life.

She lives in Dublin, Ireland, is married and is a (swimming) mother of three teenage girls.

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