Utah startup advancing AI platform for clinical innovations


Boram Kim


Intermountain Healthcare launched Culmination Bio (Culmination) last month, a biotechnology firm that has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) platform for genetic and medical research. 

The platform utilizes de-identified patient data sets within the Utah and Intermountain Healthcare systems to yield innovations in precision medicine and healthcare delivery. 

AI’s deep-learning models and applications in the field of medicine have “tremendous” potential and equally substantial challenges, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The World Economic Forum predicted that by the year 2030, AI would be able to reveal patterns in disease, aid in treatments, predict an individual’s risk of disease, suggest personalized preventive measures, and improve health system efficiencies. The technology is already being utilized across health systems to assist in clinical and administrative processes with minimal human intervention.

Culmination President and CEO Lincoln Nadauld, MD, PhD, told State of Reform that the healthcare industry is now entering an era where it is feasible to access and analyze large data sets, which in the past have been retained in individual silos by healthcare systems, and use them for innovation purposes without compromising patient safety and privacy. 

“What we’re doing at Culmination is unique in three dimensions,” Nadauld said. “We’re unique in terms of the depth of data that we have compared to what those who have gone before have done. So for example, instead of just having genomic data, like Foundation [Medicine] might have, or instead of just having limited clinical data in oncology, like Flat Iron Health or Tempus might have, Culmination has genomic, health, radiographic, pathology, laboratory, and adjudication data, etcetera. So that’s unique in its depth.

And then it’s unique in breadth because it’s not limited just to oncology—it’s comprehensive across the entire human disease state. So it’s oncology, cardiology, neurology, and all these different disease states. And then the third dimension where it’s unique is longitudinality … we’re generating care journeys or care pathways, patient journeys, that are representative of 20 or 30 or 40 years. So it’s that depth, breadth, and longitudinality that has now become feasible [and] really makes Culmination quite unique.”

As a subsidiary of Intermountain Healthcare, Culmination is part of the health system’s large research protocol in population genomics to map the genomes of hundreds of thousands of participants across Utah. The study has identified several discoveries, including the genes that cause vertigo and syncope, that are changing the way patients in Utah are treated for those disorders. 

Nadauld says a challenge for the company is regulation as it relates to concerns over patient safety and privacy. Culmination tracks healthcare-related data policies, from HIPAA compliance to data privacy and the appropriate management of personal health information. It works closely with the appropriate oversight and governance communities to make sure any and all data utilized has the appropriate patient consents in place and is de-identified and compliant. 

“Any kind of insight that we can generate from these unique data sets—its intended purpose is to improve healthcare,” Nadauld said. “[Insights will] be driven back into the healthcare system and [applied] to improve health outcomes. So we believe the most equitable way to manage these kinds of datasets and insights is to then turn around and apply them back to patient populations in a way that improves outcomes.”