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Oxford data visualisation experts develop ground-breaking tool to help speed up COVID-19 diagnosis

Data visualisation experts at an Oxford business incubator have developed a groundbreaking tool to help speed up the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Using a combination of deep learning and data visualisation, Oxford University spin out, Zegami, has developed a proficient computer platform of the same name that distinguishes between X-rays of COVID-19 infections and those caused by bacterial pneumonia, as well as healthy lungs.

Based at Grassroots co-working space, a purpose-built hub owned by Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) within their head office at Keble College, the innovative company has specifically adapted the software for use in the fight against coronavirus. The newly developed platform is now available for free to  help clinicians who are taking part in COVID-19 research.

Zegami CEO and founder, Roger Noble, said: “Currently there is a swab test for COVID-19 but the cheapest and quickest option is a chest X-ray – you can get the result back in minutes.

“We have put together a concept that can be used to diagnose COVID-19 quickly and will help researchers, data scientists and clinicians who are having to work with large numbers of imaging data.

“It is critical to get these tools out there. Radiologists are in short supply but there is an increasing demand for their services. It is inevitable that artificial intelligence will be brought in to help. Zegami speeds up the development of algorithms providing the right diagnosis.”

Inspired by Microsoft PivotViewer software, Zegami was founded in 2016 after a successful collaboration between the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford.

The company has been supported in its growth by the Grassroots team and Roger added: “The Grassroots team has supported us tremendously throughout the lockdown period, which was really helpful, allowing us to focus on the business without added stress.

“For now we are continuing to work remotely, however the door is always open. The Grassroots team has worked with us closely to look at grant funding opportunities as well as mentoring for leadership and management. The virtual mentoring and networking group has been very helpful.”

Virtual business coaching, business support and coaching classes have been offered to all Grassroots customers from Oxford Innovation Services in partnership with the national innovation agency Innovate UK, which funds business and research collaborations, and Enterprise Europe Network, which provides support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises with international ambitions.

Grassroots Community Manager Eman Hamdan said: “Our main purpose is to help outstanding scientists build and grow great businesses that can change the world.

“We are delighted to see the hard work continuing by our Grassroots businesses during these difficult times and we congratulate Zegami on their efforts to help those in the battle against coronavirus.

“As an incubator we pride ourselves on providing the flexibility, space and support to help businesses prosper and grow and we have worked hard throughout lockdown to continue to do this.

“We have continued to provide business support tailored for start-ups including the introduction of a virtual coaching programme, cash flow advice, and help with grant applications.”

Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) and Oxford Innovation, the UK’s leading operator of Innovation Centres, work together to manage Grassroots.

Open to entrepreneurs and fledgling businesses working in the science and technology industries, the specialist base provides a mixture of dedicated offices and co-working space as well as phone booths, meeting rooms and a boardroom.

Find out more about Grassroots and their customers by visiting

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