Have you ever been to a medical tech conference? I have. It was terrifying. I walked into a panel that was entirely made up of very young “innovators”. People in their early thirties, most of them men, the kind you just know have sci-fi toys on their desks, a wardrobe full of novelty t-shirts, and definitely – definitely – own multiple yoga mats. Pretty harmless, right? Wrong. The first keynote speaker stepped up to the microphone and delivered the following opener: “As we all know, public healthcare is no longer sustainable and privatization is the only way forward”. And frankly, if that sentence, coming from a young person doesn’t make you want to run away screaming, I don’t know what will. This episode made it very clear to me just how vital it is to support innovators with a different vision. AI is the most promising technology, but there are different ways to implement it. One that leads to the privatization of knowledge, and the other that leads to open knowledge free from commercial interests.

Enter the Hippo.ai Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on AI-based healthcare and on making it a public good, liberating medical knowledge and fighting the current trend towards privatization. Founded by Bart de Witte, who left IBM after having lead Digital Health DACH as a director for more than 8 years. To live his purpose: Making all life saving medical knowledge openly available to all so we can advance society and break down inequalities!

And this is what I want to talk to you about today: their latest project is called Viktoria1.0: (.) Unite data. Defeat cancer. (.) And yes, those dots in brackets are indeed boobs. Because the focus of this project is the creation of a worldwide database to help breast cancer research.

Who is Viktoria? And how is she teaching AI to detect breast cancer?

Viktoria Prantauer is an innovator, working on artificial intelligence. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and she thought of ways in which her experience could help others. It all boils down to data: AI algorithms can be taught to identify breast cancer in a mammogram in its earliest stages – when this type of cancer is at its most treatable. In order for an algorithm to learn how to successfully detect cancer, however, it is necessary to feed it data. A lot of data. This was Viktoria’s intuition: Collaborating with Hippo.AI in their mission of creating an open database, democratizing access to medical data, and using it for the public good.

The campaign

The campaign, which was launched as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month October 1st, is a spectacular piece of patient-driven storytelling, in which women get to own their story in the most perfect way. And I’m guessing, if you know me at all, you will know why I fell in love with it instantly. If, while scrolling through your Instagram feed, you might notice a few photos of women whose breasts have been replaced by ASCII, you might have come across it. These pics are being published on the dedicated campaign channels and a filter has been created for supporters to add their own ASCII-fied image. This is about reclaiming control over our data and making sure it is used to help further humanity’s progress, to treat more women earlier and better, to turn individual stories into collective growth. This is about beating breast cancer, saving lives, and using science and technology, in the words of this admirable campaign, “For the benefit of all and the profit of none”.

Do you want to support this campaign? Please send a photo of yourself that you like to Viktoriaonezero@tlgg.de

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