News (from Edinburgh Research and Innovation)

Skin cancer training app licensed to digital healthcare company

  • 7 September 2014
Skin cancer training app licensed to digital healthcare company

A pioneering digital training app for accurately identify malignant and benign skin lesion and skin growths at an earlier stage has been licensed to a specialist in digital teaching tools for the medical profession.

The early diagnosis and detection rates of skin cancer has been boosted by a pioneering digital application developed at the University of Edinburgh which trains the medical profession to accurately identify malignant and benign skin lesion and skin growths at an earlier stage.

The app – named Dermofit – has now been licensed to Simedics Limited, a Yorkshire-based company specialising in digital products and publishing for the healthcare and public sector services.

Dermofit is the brainchild of Professor Jonathan Rees, Grant Chair of Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh who had the initial concept to develop a digital tool to educate GPs in order to improve skin lesion diagnosis proficiency back in 2005.

Professor Rees has now collaborated with Professor Bob Fisher of the University's School of Informatics to further develop the Dermofit app.

Professor Rees commented: “Thirty per cent of doctors will automatically send a patient to a hospital if they have signs of a skin growth. But the evidence is that the vast majority of people who are seen and referred do not have skin cancer or anything serious at all.”

Bob Fisher, who specialises in computer vision and helped design the computer algorithms for the app, added: "Dermofit contains a photo library of skin lesions to help inform practitioners to diagnosis more effectively. Practitioners can click on the image of a lesion of interest which then leads to further similar lesions.

"As lesions are selected, further sets of similar lesions are displayed. This gives familiarity with the different skin lesion types and allows users to differentiate between lesions that look similar, but that are from different skin lesion classes.”

The app took around four years to develop, which included sourcing the extensive image library and associated diagnoses (which currently boasts over 1,300 images), developing the algorithms to automatically group the photos based on their colour and texture properties, and testing the product with real-life practitioners.

Simedics Limited originally approached the University regarding the technology through ‘University Technology’ (, an initiative that promotes new technology opportunities for industry from all of Scotland’s universities.

The app was licensed to Simedics this summer, through Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI), the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation arm. The company now plans to develop and launch a commercial product this autumn, targeted at the medical students, dermatology specialist nurses, and general practitioners training market.

Matthew Driver, Director of Simedics, said: “We saw this app as a really exciting opportunity for us, which fits well with our plans to increase our range of digital teaching tools in the healthcare sector. We have plans to targeting global markets following a UK launch later this year.”

Prof. Fisher believes the app has the potential to be developed further, and hopes for a continuing relationship with Simedics in the future. He said: “We feel that there are opportunities to improve the app even more moving forward. For example, it would be great if we could analyse the data of how people are using the search tool to diagnose so that we can improve things for the future.”

Prof. Rees found the inter-disciplinary collaboration at the University a really interesting experience. He said: “We have enjoyed working with each other and certainly the final product would not been possible without joining forces, and we are curious to see how the company plan on using our technology in the future.”

Derek Waddell, ERI’s Chief Executive, welcomed the deal, saying “This is another example of business and academia working together to develop new technology that benefits society and the UK economy.”

Further information

Categories: News Release

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