Rutgers Health Team Develops Novel AI Software to Help Predict Diseases in Individuals

By Steve Sears

Zeeshan Ahmed, who is both a core faculty member at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (IFH) and an assistant professor of medicine at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School for the past three years, makes his priority clear when discussing his goal for IntelliGenes.

IntelliGenes is  a new software that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches to measure the significance of specific genomic biomarkers to help predict diseases in individuals.

When asked if he had plans to license the IntelliGenes technology, Ahmed said, “My overall goal is to serve science. There has been some interest shown from different sides, but I am a part of Rutgers, and if you Google ‘AI’ and ‘ML’ technology and development, you will find top-tier universities like MIT, Georgia Tech and some of the big names who are doing exciting science with the use of AI and machine learning.

“I want it to be said that Rutgers has developed this solution that is, if not the first, [is] one of the first in the field or in the world which can support clinical facilities, support science and support life sciences for the betterment of the life cycles of humans. That is the goal. Business has never been my priority. Science is my priority.”

Ahmed is the lead author of the study from which IntelliGenes was developed. The software, which is the first of its kind and can be used to track any disease, resulted from a combination of Ahmed’s expertise in the fields of genomics and AI. Coauthors of the study include William DeGroat, Dinesh Mendhe, Atharva Bhusari and Habiba Abdelhalim, of the IFH; and Saman Zeeshan, of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

AI sometimes has a negative public perception, but Ahmed sees the obvious benefits and how it can be further utilized with regard to IntelliGenes.

“It [AI] has been developing fast and getting recognition in many different fields of science and even life,” he said. “For example, you have heard of applications related to natural language processing, applications related to biomedical or image analysis and applications in robotics. However, the speed of AI and machine learning in the field of genomics is not that high and has not been successful. So, we are looking to tap into the field of genomics where we can implement AI. Our long-term goal is to implement AI as the solution which can analyze the complete human genome and help us in discovering novel biomarkers and predict complex rare and known diseases.”

According to Ahmed, the timeline for the software’s development has been about three years. “We had proposed this project a while ago,” he said. “We are developing intelligence, primarily to support precise early detection of common and rare diseases in individuals. Overall, the research project took I would say over two years. And when I say research project, it is not only about programming something. You start the research project, you look at the situation, you look at distinct solutions, you design and test different things. That took us close to two years. However, since we started developing, programming the solution and testing and properly validating or doing a delegation of energy, it has taken over a year now.”

IntelliGenes was also designed to be user-friendly, so clinicians, nurses, researchers and students, with and without a computational background, can use AI and ML in clinics, institutions and laboratories.

Researchers tested the software using Amarel, the high-performance computing cluster managed by the Rutgers Office of Advanced Research Computing. The office provides a computing and data environment for Rutgers researchers engaged in complex computational and data-intensive projects.


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