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PolyU collaborates with Macau University of Science and Technology to advance diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia

15 Jun 2020

Research & Innovation Innovation and Technology Development Office

(From left) Dr Johnson LAU, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology of PolyU; Prof. Manson FOK, Faculty of Medicine of Macau University of Science and Technology (M.U.S.T.); Prof. Alexander WAI, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU; and Prof. Kang ZHANG, Faculty of Medicine of M.U.S.T. introduce a new AI system for rapid and accurate diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia.

The research team’s AI framework for COVID-19 pneumonia diagnosis and prognosis prediction

Examples on performance of the AI system compared with manual tasks on a lesion segmentation.

The interface of AI-assisted diagnostic system for COVID-19 pneumonia based on Chest Computed Tomography

COVID-19 is taking its toll on the world, affecting more than 200 countries and regions. In the face of a surge in cases, rapid diagnosis and identification of high-risk patients for early intervention is crucial for controlling the pandemic. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is committed to the fight against COVID-19 and has been collaborating with various partners in the prevention and control of the disease.  PolyU today announced the launch of a new AI system jointly developed with the Macau University of Science and Technology (M.U.S.T.) in conjunction with other Chinese institutions, to assist in the rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 pneumonia. This research was published in the prestigious international journal Cell, in a paper entitled “Clinically Applicable AI System for Accurate Diagnosis, Quantitative Measurements, and Prognosis of COVID-19 Pneumonia Using Computed Tomography” (link). 

The novel AI-assisted diagnostic system, based on computed tomography (CT) chest imaging, can efficiently distinguish COVID-19 pneumonia from other viral pneumonia, and predict the severity level in 20 seconds, with an accuracy of up to 90% or above. It assists radiologists and physicians in performing a quick diagnosis, especially when the health system is overloaded.

Leveraging PolyU’s strengths and our collaborations with different research partners, we are able to contribute to the well-being of humankind.

Professor Alexander WAI

Deputy President and Provost of PolyU

According to Professor Kang ZHANG of the Faculty of Medicine of M.U.S.T. – the first author of the research paper, the research team used a large CT database of 3,777 patients to train and test the AI system to differentiate novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) from other common pneumonia and normal controls. This system is able to provide accurate clinical prognosis that can aid clinicians when considering appropriate early clinical management and appropriate resource allocation. It has been developed to assist global clinicians in combating COVID-19.

Dr Johnson LAU, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology of PolyU, explained that the AI team uses deep learning, semantic segmentation and multiple neural network architectures to create an accurate AI diagnostic system comprising texture analysis, quantitative measurements and diagnosis classification. In addition, based on the international standard for related research on lung lesions, lung, liver damage and relevant clinical indicators, they have also developed a comprehensive rating system to project the emergence of pneumonia severe lesions accurately for the follow-up treatment.

The scientists from PolyU and M.U.S.T. have also collaborated on other projects, including the seroconversion study in SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) patients in China, which helped pave the way for further diagnostic and therapeutic development to treat SARS-CoV-2. The study “Seroprevalence of immunoglobulin M and G antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in China” was also recently published in another prestigious scientific journal Nature Medicine (link).

“Leveraging PolyU’s strengths and our collaborations with different research partners, we are able to contribute to the well-being of humankind. During the outbreak, we have developed a rapid automated diagnostic system to detect COVID-19 and have conducted various scientific experiments related to the pandemic,” said Professor Alexander WAI, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU. “Since the establishment of the biotechnology and translational medicine international collaborative platform in 2018, PolyU has been working closely with M.U.S.T. and other partners from the United States and the Greater Bay Area for high-impact research. Our long-term cooperation has paved the way for us to respond quickly, and to use our expertise to develop this new AI system for the diagnosis and prognosis of COVID-19.”

Professor Manson FOK, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of M.U.S.T., remarked that this AI system had been implemented in many hospitals in different countries. M.U.S.T. is collaborating with several prominent universities including Baylor University, University of Buffalo and Stanford University to serve the US populations. He believed this application could soon be adopted in Hong Kong, more regions of Mainland China and worldwide.

COVID-19 is a new and highly contagious virus with over 7 million people infected (as of June 10). Researchers from PolyU and M.U.S.T. with their supportive partners will continue their efforts in COVID-19 research to use scientific technologies to combat this pandemic through prevention, diagnosis, treatment and control.


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Ms Eunice Cheng

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