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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Boston Children’s Hospital Hires a Prompt Engineer to Help the Healthcare Organization Deploy and Use Artificial Intelligence Applications

This may be a new ‘sign of the times’ as hospitals, clinical laboratories, and other healthcare providers working with AI find they also need to hire their own prompt engineers

Boston Children’s Hospital last year hired a “prompt engineer” to propel the hospital forward in using Artificial intelligence (AI) as part of its business model. But what is AI prompting? It’s a relatively new term and may not be familiar to clinical laboratory and pathology leaders.

AI “prompting,” according to Florida State University, “refers to the process of interacting with an AI system by providing specific instructions or queries to achieve a desired outcome.”

According to workable.com, prompt engineers specialize “in developing, refining, and optimizing AI-generated text prompts to ensure they are accurate, engaging, and relevant for various applications. They also collaborate with different teams to improve the prompt generation process and overall AI system performance.” 

Healthcare institutions are getting more serious about using AI to improve daily workflows and clinical care, including in the clinical laboratory and pathology departments. But adopting the new technology can be disruptive. To ensure the implementation goes smoothly, hospitals are now seeking prompt engineers to guide the organization’s strategy for using AI. 

When Boston Children’s Hospital leaders set out to find such a person, they looked for an individual who had “a clinical background [and] who knows how to use these tools. Someone who had experience coding for large language models and natural language processing, but who could also understand clinical language,” according to MedPage Today.

“We got many, many applications, some really impressive people, but we were looking for a specific set of skills and background,” John Brownstein, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, told MedPage Today.

“It was not easy to find [someone]—a bit of a unicorn-type candidate,” noted Brownstein, who is also a medical contributor to ABC News.

After a four-month search, the hospital hired Dinesh Rai, MD, emergency room physician and AI engineer, for the position. According to Brownstein, Rai had “actually practiced medicine, lived in a clinical environment,” and had “successfully launched many [AI] applications on top of large language models,” MedPage Today reported.

“Some of the nuances I bring to the table in terms of being a physician and having worked clinically and understanding really deeply the clinical workflows and how we can implement the [AI] technology—where its limits are, where it can excel, and the quickest way to get things [done],” Dinesh Rai, MD (above), told MedPage Today. “I’m happy to be able to help with all of that.” Hospital clinical laboratory and pathology managers may soon by engaging with prompt engineers to ensure the smooth use of AI in their departments. (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)

Prompt Engineers are like F1 Drivers

“It’s kind of like driving a car, where basically anyone can drive an automatic car, and anyone can go onto ChatGPT, write some text, and get a pretty solid response,” said Rai, describing the act of AI prompting to MedPage today.

Then, there are “people who know how to drive manual, and there are people who will know different prompting techniques, like chain-of-thought or zero-shot prompting,” he added. “Then you have those F1 drivers who are very intimate with the mechanics of their car, and how to use it most optimally.”

The American Hospital Association (AHA) believes that AI “holds great promise in helping healthcare providers gain insights and improve health outcomes.” In an article titled, “How AI Is Improving Diagnostics, Decision-Making and Care,” the AHA noted that, “Although many questions remain regarding its safety, regulation, and impact, the use of AI in clinical care is no longer in its infancy and is expected to experience exponential growth in the coming years.

“AI is improving data processing, identifying patterns, and generating insights that otherwise might elude discovery from a physician’s manual effort. The next five years will be critical for hospitals and health systems to build the infrastructure needed to support AI technology, according to the recently released Futurescan 2023,” the AHA wrote.

The graphic above is taken from the American Hospital Association’s article about Futurescan’s 2023 survey results on AI in healthcare. “Healthcare executives from across the nation were asked how likely it is that by 2028 a federal regulatory body will determine that Al for clinical care delivery augmentation (e.g., assisted diagnosis and prescription, personalized medication and care) is safe for use by our hospital or health systems,” AHA stated. This would include the use of AI in clinical laboratories and pathology group practices. (Graphic copyright: American Hospital Association.)

The AHA listed the top three opportunities for AI in clinical care as:

  • Clinical Decision Tools: “AI algorithms analyze a vast amount of patient data to assist medical professionals in making more informed decisions about care.”
  • Diagnostic and Imaging: The use of AI “allows healthcare professionals to structure, index, and leverage diagnostic and imaging data for more accurate diagnoses.”
  • Patient Safety: The use of AI improves decision making and optimizes health outcomes by evaluating patient data. “Systems that incorporate AI can improve error detection, stratify patients, and manage drug delivery.”

The hiring of a prompt engineer by Boston Children’s Hospital is another example of how AI is gaining traction in clinical healthcare. According to the Futurescan 2023 survey, nearly half of hospital CEOs and strategy leaders believe that health systems will have the infrastructure in place by 2028 to successfully utilize AI in clinical decision making. 

“I’m lucky to [be] in an organization that has recognized the importance of AI as part of the future practice of medicine,” Rai told MedPage Today.

Pathologists and managers of clinical laboratories and genetic testing companies will want to track further advancements in artificial intelligence. At some point, the capabilities of future generations of AI solutions may encourage labs to hire their own prompt engineers.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Why One Hospital Hired an AI Prompt Engineer

This Children’s Hospital is Integrating AI with Healthcare

How Five Healthcare Organizations Are Investing in AI for Patient Care

What is a Large Language Model (LLM)?

How AI is Improving Diagnostics, Decision-making and Care

Prompt Engineer Job Description

Chain-of-Thought Prompting

Zero-Shot Prompting

Futurescan 2023: Health Care Trends and Implications

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Discovery of Antibody that Neutralizes All Known Variants of SARS-CoV-2 Could Lead to New Vaccines and Clinical Laboratory Treatments for COVID-19

Though only in early stages, findings could lead to a ‘therapeutic against current and newly-arising variants,’ say researchers

As SARS-CoV-2 changes and mutates, some therapeutic antibodies that were once highly effective in fighting the virus have lost potency. But now, in a proof-of-concept study, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital have identified one antibody that neutralizes all known variants of the coronavirus, including the omicron variant. Microbiologists and clinical laboratory managers will find this intriguing, as most medical labs perform serology testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

The new antibody appears to be robust. It triggers several other types of antibodies as part of the immune response. If validated by further research, this discovery, the researchers state, may lead to new vaccines, better therapies, and improved treatments for COVID-19.

The scientists published their findings in the journal Science Immunology, titled, “An Antibody from Single Human VH-rearranging Mouse Neutralizes All SARS-CoV-2 Variants Through BA.5 by Inhibiting Membrane Fusion.”

Frederick Alt, PhD

“We hope that this humanized antibody will prove to be as effective at neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 in patients as it has proven to be thus far in preclinical evaluations,” said geneticist Frederick Alt, PhD, Director of the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and one of the leaders of the research. Clinical laboratories that perform serology testing for COVID-19 will be intrigued by this new line of research. (Photo copyright: PR Newswire.)

SP1-77 Antibody Outperforms All Others at Neutralizing SARS-CoV-2

To conduct their research, the team used genetically modified mice that basically have built-in human immune systems. These mice were originally utilized for seeking out antibodies to HIV, another virus that tends to mutate. Their immune systems can mimic what human immune systems encounter when a viral invader attacks. 

The scientists inserted two human gene segments into the mice, which quickly produced antibodies resembling those made by humans. The mice were then exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from the original coronavirus strain. The scientists found that the mice produced nine different families of antibodies that could bind to the spike protein.

The researchers then tested the effectiveness of those antibodies and found that three of the nine antibody families strongly neutralized the original SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. In addition, one of the antibody families—dubbed SP1-77—was much more powerful and could neutralize the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and all known Omicron strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

New Monoclonal Antibody Products and Vaccines

If their findings are validated through further research, SP1-77 “would have potential to be a therapeutic against current and newly-arising variants of concern” according to the Science Immunology study. It also could be useful as part of a cocktail containing other antibody treatments for COVID-19 variants. 

“SP1-77 binds the spike protein at a site that so far has not been mutated in any variant, and it neutralizes these variants by a novel mechanism,” said Tomas Kirchhausen, PhD, Senior Investigator, Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and one of the authors of the study in a statement announcing the study findings. “These properties may contribute to its broad and potent activity,” he added.

“This is very early-stage proof-of-concept work to illustrate that broadly neutralizing antibodies can be generated using a mouse model,” Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Prevention. “Such work, if replicated and expanded, could form the basis of new monoclonal antibody products as well as a vaccine.”

The researchers have applied for a patent for the SP1-77 antibody as well as the mouse model they used to create it. Studies on the antibody are ongoing and have only been performed on mice and not humans. The scientists intend to execute further research on the innovative antibody and hope it will someday be used to help fight the COVID-19 virus and all its variants. 

“We’d love to have a vaccine that is active against all circulating variants, including those yet to come,” Thomas Russo, MD, Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, University at Buffalo told Prevention. “It’s the holy grail of vaccines.”

Microbiologists and clinical laboratories working with monoclonal antibodies to treat for COVID-19 infections will no doubt want to follow the Boston Children’s Hospital research closely as it may lead to new treatments and vaccines.

JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Powerful New Antibody Neutralizes All Known Coronavirus Variants

An Antibody from Single Human VH-rearranging Mouse Neutralizes All SARS-CoV-2 Variants Through BA.5 by Inhibiting Membrane Fusion

Boston Children’s Hospital Researchers Find Antibody That Neutralizes All Major COVID Variants in Tests on Mice

Scientists Discovered an Antibody That Can Take Out All COVID-19 Variants

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