George Mazariegos, MDCollaborators—OmniLife (a health technology communication and collaboration platform), UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the Starzl Network—have been awarded a $250,000 SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) will support the “Transplants for Kids” project, which will use AI / machine learning algorithms to align optimal donor grafts with children awaiting liver transplants. This is the first of two anticipated phases of the project with a total of $2M in expected funding.

The clinical principal investigator is the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Chief of Transplant and Starzl Network’s founder, George Mazariegos, MD (pictured). Dr. Mazariegos is also an affiliated faculty member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Previous work completed by members of the Starzl Network and the OmniLife research team confirmed significant variance in patient mortality among transplant programs that could be prevented with better liver graft selection. The funded project will confirm the feasibility of a graft selection algorithm that assists the clinical teams with matching candidates with available livers. If successful, hundreds of pediatric patients could benefit from increased access to transplants and decreased wait time.

The study has three objectives:

  1. Develop a feature space of principal components from combinations of donor, patient, and program characteristics.
  2. Train supervised machine learning algorithms for predicting matching characteristics for multiple graft types.
  3. Determine the feasibility of incorporating the algorithms into OmniLife Organ Workflows™ and deliver the predictions at the time of organ offer, through a randomized controlled trial.

The investigation team includes scientific and clinical faculty from the Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients (SRTR) and the Universities of Pittsburgh, Columbia, San Francisco, Northwestern, and Iowa. The principal investigator is OmniLife’s cofounder and health informatics expert, Eric Pahl, PhD. The team is bolstered by transplant biostatistician Nicholas Wood, PhD, from SRTR and the clinical leaders in pediatric transplantation affiliated with the Starzl Network: Emily Perito, MD, and Kang Sang-Mo, MD, from University of California, San Francisco; Steven Lobritto, MD, from Columbia; Sarah Taylor, MD, from Northwestern; and James Squires, MD, and Kyle Soltys, MD, from UPMC.

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