Inger Persson receives Hjärnäpplet Innovation Prize

Inger Persson står på en balkong ovanför ekonomikums bibliotek.

Inger Persson, senior lecturer at the Department of Statistics, is receiving the award for an algorithm that detects sepsis, a condition that can be difficult for doctors to diagnose. Photo: Marcus Holmquist

Her software helps healthcare professionals detect the risk of blood poisoning in time, something which could eventually save one life per day. Now statistician Inger Persson is being awarded the ‘Hjärnäpplet’ prize for this innovation, which forms the basis of the company AlgoDx.

Uppsala University has awarded the ‘Hjärnäpplet’ innovation prize since 2008. This year’s winner is Inger Persson, Associate Professor of Statistics and co-founder of the company AlgoDx.

“Receiving the ‘Hjärnäpplet’ prize is huge. There are so many talented researchers at this University, and the fact that I have done something that stands out is really cool,” says Persson.

Innovation that could save lives

Sepsis, or blood poisoning as it is commonly known, is a life-threatening condition that leads to the death of around 8,000 Swedes each year. It is estimated that around one third of all intensive care patients develop sepsis. Thanks to Inger Persson’s innovation, the AI algorithm 'NAVOY Sepsis', there is now a chance that these patients could be discovered in time.

“What we have done is develop a software, a mathematical algorithm, that can predict which patients in intensive care are at high risk of developing sepsis. We integrate our algorithm with the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system. The software reads the patient data in real time, processes it and calculates the risk of this particular patient developing sepsis.”

Much faster than a doctor

The algorithm takes into account some 20 parameters such as blood pressure, body temperature and blood test results. The software’s ability to quickly process this wealth of information and view how it changes over time can help doctors make the right diagnosis and start treatment in time – which is vital for patients at risk.

“Together with the Swedish Institute for Health Economics, we produced a health economic model and found that if we can bring the treatment forward by just a few hours, we can in principle save one patient’s life per day.”

NAVOY Sepsis is available for hospitals and EHR systems to purchase. Following an initial study phase at Södersjukhuset, integration is now underway at St Göran’s Hospital. As the EHR systems differ, the software has to be tailored to each hospital.

Porträtt Inger Persson 

Before joining the Department of Statistics, Persson worked in pharmaceutical development. Both skills came in handy in developing the algorithm, which they are now implementing in the healthcare sector. Photo: Marcus Holmquist

Paves way for early detection of other diseases

When Inger Persson started the company with two partners, she took leave from her role at the Department of Statistics. She has now returned to the University and taken on an advisory role at the company AlgoDx.

The company currently has nine employees and another product in the pipeline – a similar algorithm that can be used to predict the risk of acute kidney damage. Persson believes that using AI to identify other diseases at an early stage will become more common in the future.

“There are many areas within healthcare where a similar solution could be used. This could be done on any scale.”

Sandra Gunnarsson

The Hjärnäpplet Innovation Prize

The motivation reads as follows:

”The ‘Hjärnäpplet’ 2023 Innovation Prize has been awarded to Inger Persson, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, for her social sciences contributions to life-saving innovation. By developing solutions that use, summarise and locate information within data sets, she has enabled early and reliable detection of sepsis. Her efforts have led the company AlgoDX to major success and brought the method to market. Through all this, she has provided healthcare with a tool for earlier diagnosis and treatment of a life-threatening condition.”

Inger Persson founded the company AlgoDx together with Uppsala alumni David Becedas and Joakim Söderberg.

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