Artificial intelligence: Pierre Fabre kicks off the 2nd AI Health Challenge

26 June 2018

The call for applications has been launched for the 2nd AI Health Challenge organized by the Pierre Fabre Group. This new challenge will be held on July 4 and 5 in Castres (Tarn, France) as part of the 12th edition of the e-Health Summer University that brings together the international ecosystem of connected health every year.

The challenge will once again focus on the theme of skin cancer, a core issue for the Pierre Fabre Group. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization, 232,000 cases of malignant melanoma are reported each year, and 55,000 people die of it. The Pierre Fabre Group has made the prevention and treatment of melanoma a priority focus for its development, backed by its expertise in dermo-cosmetics (prevention with photoprotection products), medical dermatology (treatment of pre-cancerous lesions like actinic keratosis) and onco-dermatology (research and development of treatments for severe melanomas). 

To register for the Challenge:


From early detection to skin cancer prevention

 Last November, the 1stAI Health Challenge focused on screening for melanomas from dermoscopy images of moles. For this second edition, Pierre Fabre has decided to have the challenger teams work on a project for a new algorithmic approach for rating sunburn. Backed within the Group by the R&D clinical teams from Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmetics, the project is designed to reinforce the existing methods of determining sun protection factors and thus optimize the effectiveness of future photoprotective agents in order to better prevent cancers caused by sun exposure [1].

 Digital agility, a partnership approach and a campus mindset

Pierre Fabre plans to host some 40 data scientists for this second health hackathon, which will take place at the premises of ISIS, the healthcare engineering school located on the university campus of Castres. Combining digital agility and the campus mindset, the Challenge will reward two start-ups. After an intense 24 hours, they will be given the opportunity to present their project to a jury of experts from Pierre Fabre, Microsoft France and midsize enterprise Keyrus Life Science, a data science service provider for Pierre Fabre.  

The winning team will receive a prize of €5,000 and the runner-up a prize of €2,000. In addition, all of the start-ups interested will also have the opportunity to benefit from support through the "Inception" acceleration program offered by another major partner, NVIDIA, a leader in artificial intelligence. The NVIDIA Inception Incubation Program will assist them in their development and enable them to accelerate their AI solution on the latest GPU platforms and NVIDIA technologies dedicated to Deep Learning.

To organize its second AI Health Challenge, Pierre Fabre has chosen the inspiring setting of the e-health Summer University, a major event organized by the Technopole of Castres-Mazamet with which the company has been a long-time partner. Although use of the technical platform is not mandatory, Pierre Fabre has also renewed its partnership with Microsoft, which will offer participants an optimal working environment for running algorithms: its Azure Cloud with NVIDIA's most powerful graphics processors (GPUs). During the hackathon, teams will be coached by the data scientists from Pierre Fabre, Microsoft and Keyrus Life Science. Pierre Fabre is emphasizing the necessary coexistence of the right skill sets and the quality of partnerships to reach viable solutions.

"This challenge will open up full-scale sourcing. "

Thierry Picard, Chief Digital Officer, Pierre Fabre Pharmaceuticals

In addition to the two Challenges it wishes to coordinate each year, Pierre Fabre has made AI a new core theme in the development of its digital strategy. "We consider that AI can play a major role in health care, not only in the future, but right now, especially in prevention and observance technologies," asserts Thierry Picard, Chief Digital Officer, Pierre Fabre Pharmaceuticals.

The main objective is to leverage the digital ecosystem as much as possible to make quicker progress in AI projects. "Our ambition is to reference partners who produce AI at the right price," he continues. "This Challenge will enable us to perform full-scale sourcing to have our teams and the winning companies work on actual research projects for healthcare professionals and patients, as they are our main concerns. "

"We share history and regional roots with Pierre Fabre."

Virginia Doan, Director of the Castres-Mazamet Technopole, which organizes the e-Health Summer University

The e-Health Summer University, organized by the Castres-Mazamet Technopole, has made its name among digital stakeholders with its cross-cutting approach, earning its current international renown. Nine hundred stakeholders and decision-makers in technological innovation took part in the 2017 event and Virginia Doan, Director of the Castres-Mazamet Technopole, anticipates the same success for the twelfth edition, which will take place on July 3, 4 and 5, 2018 in Castres (Tarn), with the theme of "Applied Intelligence, an AI at the service of breaking down silos and cross-cutting approaches, an AI turned towards the uses of today and tomorrow." On the agenda: round tables, TV spots, demonstrations, networking, awards, and more. The ability of the e-Health Summer University to reinvent itself is a driver for the event, which constantly innovates with its partners, and Pierre Fabre in particular, who have been sponsoring the e-Health awards since 2013. "This is a leading event and we have already received 153 applications relating to innovative projects (an increase of 25%), including a quarter from other countries," explains Ms. Doan. The win-win partnership with the laboratory was created three years ago, via the organization of an initial hackathon, then a Chatbot Challenge and, this year, an AI Health Challenge, to target another audience and help new projects come about. “We share history and regional roots with Pierre Fabre, who have been helping to organize the conferences, introducing us to their network of experts, and initiating cross-communication for the event," she continues. “This year, this far-reaching partnership also includes running two conferences dedicated to "uses in the health blockchain" and "safety and user experiences in e-Health services." The Pierre Fabre dermo-cosmetics division will also present its Dermaweb initiative. Another original feature of the 2018 event is that the e-Health Summer University will take place at three exceptional sites in the town of Castres, to offer "a new experience in digital technologies and health care." "On the first day, we will be on hospital premises, close to patients and health professionals, and our opening conference on the ethics of e-health technologies will be held in the evening in the main courtyard of the City Hall. The traditional focus of the event, in particular with the Pierre Fabre AI Health Challenge, will take place within the ISIS engineering school, an ideas laboratory for digital technologies," points out Virginia Doan.



"We have reached a new stage in our partnership with Pierre Fabre"

Gabriel Julien, Keyrus Sales Director

Keyrus Life Science, a subsidiary of the Keyrus group specialized in preclinical development and clinical research, is one of the many R&D CROs that have been extensively and duly referenced by the Pierre Fabre Group (R&D Purchases, R&D OSS, etc.). For the first time, the company will take part this year in the e-health Summer University and will bring its expertise in datascience as part of the AI Health Challenge. More specifically, Keyrus data scientists specializing in medicine will help prepare and provide the set of data supplied to the start-ups by Pierre Fabre and coach the teams so they can complete the work within the allotted time. "After three years maintaining a customer/supplier relationship, it was time to reach a new stage in our partnership with Pierre Fabre as part of the e-Health Summer University, which is also a strategic communication channel for our company," states Gabriel Julien, Sales Director, who believes the company can contribute to the AI ecosystem based on its business expertise. "Our business is to provide decision-making IT systems to process data for all corporate functions (HR, Finance, Sales, Marketing, Executive Management, etc.)," he continues. "Our customers in the retail, e-commerce, distribution and healthcare sectors are now asking us for more and more data science and algorithm manipulation services." The main challenge today is to combine internal and external data (from partners, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), weather data, etc.) to highlight areas of value enabling the company to reposition itself. Over the past fifteen years, Keyrus has significantly enhanced its presence in the hospital sector (hospitals and university hospitals) and with supervisory organizations (such as the regional health care agency (ARS), the French National Agency for Drug and Health Product Safety (ANSM), and MAP), by helping create their decision-making coordination systems. The company is also behind its own Keyrus Innovation Factory (KIF) program connecting start-ups with its customers on a variety of applications. Founded in 1996, Keyrus is a French midsized enterprise headquartered in Levallois-Perret with some 3,000 employees and posted a sales turnover of €260 million in 2017.

"With Pierre Fabre, we are focusing on spreading the AI project into healthcare."

Antoine Denis, Health Marketing Development Manager, Microsoft France.

For Antoine Denis, Health Marketing Development Manager at Microsoft France, the hackathon is an opportunity to have access to new ideas, to highly innovative projects, in healthcare. The Pierre Fabre partnership emerged from this, with the first AI Health Challenge that took place on November 24 and 25 in Deauville, during the 28th Health Communication Festival. The challenge for the teams was to recognize a melanoma from dermoscopy images of moles. To do so, they were coached by experts from the publisher and worked on thousands of images using the Microsoft Azure Cloud platform. The partnership has been renewed with Microsoft for this second AI Health Challenge using a new algorithmic approach for rating sunburn. The objective is the same for Antoine Denis: "Encourage innovative projects to support the transformation of healthcare for all stakeholders." In other words, how can we achieve the best treatment at the lowest cost and ensure better patient satisfaction? With AI, the vision of a practitioner for Microsoft is an "augmented doctor". "Today, with Pierre Fabre, we are focusing on spreading innovation throughout the healthcare chain, which is still the most complex phase for the AI project," he concludes.




[1] Références : Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. « Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up ». Journal of Clinical Oncology 2011; 29:257-63. 82. Ulrich C, Jürgensen JS, Degen A, Hackethal M