A scientific pioneer in computational medical image analysis was this week awarded one of the largest international prizes in science, the Royal Society and Académie des Sciences Microsoft Award.
Professor Nicholas Ayache, a Research Director at INRIA (the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control), was be awarded €250,000 as part of the prize, funded by Microsoft.
The award will fund Professor Ayache’s proposal to allow clinicians to develop individual, patient-tailored 3D models of heart disease, brain tumours and other conditions.
The 3D models will help clinicians to make early diagnoses, and surgeons to simulate different possible interventions, to aid successful therapies.
The award was also given in recognition of Professor Ayache’s outstanding achievement in the field of medical image analysis. He is well known as the founder of the ASCLEPIOS (Analysis and Simulation of Biomedical Images) project team, who focus on developing computational models of anatomy and physiology to help interpret images and to assist in prevention, diagnosis and therapy of diseases.
Professor Ayache said: "My goal is to create, from the medical images of any patient, a series of computational models of his/her organs and pathologies to create a personalized "virtual patient" model. The medical objective is to make this virtual patient model realistic enough to increase the potential for early diagnosis and also to plan and simulate several therapeutic strategies to select the most efficient one."
He said the prize will provide him and his team with the opportunity to try to “improve some of our key models in terms of realism and speed, in particular for the simulation of certain brain tumours and cardiac diseases".
Professor Denis Weaire FRS, chair of the judging panel, and representative of the Royal Society, described Professor Ayache as “one of most influential leaders in the development of medical image analysis”, which he said was becoming an essential tool throughout modern medicine.
He added: “His work on early minimal invasive surgery and the application of surface differential geometry to modeling 3D surfaces, such as the surface of the skull, was groundbreaking. His current research is creating sophisticated models of human organs and promises to radically improve diagnosis and treatment."
Jules Hoffman president of the Académie des Sciences, said of Professor Ayache’s work: “His outstanding research has firmly grounded the fields of computational medicine and surgery in mathematics and computation. In particular his work on the statistics of three-dimensional shapes, the combination of several imaging modalities, and the development of computational models combining anatomy and physiology is paving the way to earlier disease detection and more efficient and safer treatments for patients."
"Professor Ayache’s outstanding research in the field of biomedical imaging and analysis has led to breakthroughs which help to better prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. It’s an impressive example of the vital role computer science can play in helping us to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges." said Dr Andrew Herbert, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge.
The Royal Society and Académie des Sciences Microsoft Award was established to uniquely recognise outstanding contributions to science made by European scientists working at the intersection of science and computing.
The 2008 award was open to research scientists working in Europe at the interface of the biological sciences and computing.