Razvan Ionasec (EMBA 2018) has been a computer buff since his childhood in Romania. His team at Siemens has now developed an artificial intelligence-based assistant to help radiologists evaluate medical scans.
Razvan Ionasec had been working for
several years on machine learning and computer vision technologies when he
received a personal letter from a father seeking help for a son diagnosed with
a complex congenital cardiovascular disease.
“He had read about our
research in the field of medical image analysis,” says Razvan, a native of
Romania. “It was too early in the development cycle at that time, but it
inspired me to pursue my PhD so I could work on problems that have real impact
So Razvan focused on machine
learning and medical image analysis in earning his PhD at the Technical
University of Munich in 2010, started his career in Princeton, New Jersey, with
Siemens, and in 2017 he became the company’s Global Head of Artificial Intelligence
“In healthcare, as the
technology advances and we get closer to artificial general intelligence (AGI),
we will experience a profound paradigm shift in clinical research and medicine
itself,” says Razvan. “However, the disruption starts with a business
problem and business decision, because even so powerful a technology as AGI
will only be the enabling means to an end.”
This realisation led Razvan to enrol last year as an Executive MBA student at Cambridge Judge Business School, a 20-month programme that allowed him to continue his role at Siemens in Erlangen, Germany.
“Choosing Cambridge was a
no-brainer, given the reputation of the University and the Business School, its
focus on diversity, and its location at the epicentre of innovation and
entrepreneurship in biotech,” he says.
This summer, the Siemens
Healthineers team headed by Razvan announced that a new artificial
intelligence-based radiology product called the Al-Rad Companion Chest CT was
awarded a certification that allows its marketing in Europe. The intelligent
software assistant can automatically evaluate CT scans of the chest, helping
radiologists interpret those images faster and more precisely. The technology
works by differentiating between the various structures of the chest,
highlighting them individually in order to measure potential abnormalities
“Think about an AI assistant
that provides insights on issues such as potential cancerous lung lesions or
dilated aortas, and is used in everyday clinical practice,” Razvan says of
the product’s potential. “It is deployed within a cloud computing
infrastructure, so this allows it to scale quickly with new AI skills and makes
it easy for potential users around the world to access it.”
Among the most immediate applications
in healthcare, he says, AI reduces human errors while lowering labour costs at
increased productivity of routine procedures, which frees up resources for addressing
more complex cases and improve patient experience.
Razvan says his passion for computing began with a childhood love of computer games despite the “horrible sound” of his family’s primitive cassette-based device. After getting his own first PC, he and a friend programmed it to develop an Internet-based food delivery business in partnership with a local restaurant in his hometown of Timisoara, Romania, in the summer of 2001. This led to studies in electrical engineering and computer science in Romania, Germany, the US, and then on to his PhD in Munich.
“The core problems of the
healthcare system today can be explained through data,” he says. “Making
data more quantitative, structured, actionable and available will help address
the most fundamental challenges: quality, cost, access and delivery.
“Here is where technologies
like artificial intelligence and cloud computing come into play. These are key
ingredients for data-driven solutions to the macroeconomic challenges affecting
healthcare systems worldwide.”
Razvan’s EMBA class in Cambridge,
which is due to graduate in 2020, includes quite a few professionals with
medical or biotech backgrounds, including people focusing on neuroscience,
primary care, orthopaedic and trauma surgery, and cancer research.
“Healthcare is personal, it affects all of us in the most direct way,” he says. “Through my work I’d like to empower both patients and clinicians to make better decisions for healthier lives. I’m excited to help unlock the enormous societal and economic value by applying the right technology to the right business problems.”
Razvan is interested in hearing from…
…everyone passionate about disruptive innovations in the digital health space.