Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

Shahrukh Babar, Xylexa’s chief executive officer speaks about the company's newly-developed breast cancer detection software at his office in Islamabad. (AN photo)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

  • Xylexa Inc. has developed software that produces mammogram results within seconds, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent
  • Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year

ISLAMABAD: The CEO of a Pakistani startup that uses artificial intelligence and image processing to detect breast cancer said this week he was hopeful his software would break onto the global stage next year after getting approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Xylexa Inc., a computer-aided diagnostics platform, has developed software that processes mammograms within seconds and produces results, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent while also cutting costs and time.

Commuters make their way past a building lit with pink light on the occasion of the breast cancer awareness month in Karachi on Oct. 10, 2020. (AFP/File)

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and Pakistan has the highest rate of the disease in Asia, with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Of those, 40,000 patients do not survive, according to data from the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, which says approximately one out of every nine Pakistani women are likely to suffer from breast cancer. Around 77 percent cases of invasive breast cancer occur in women above 50 years, though if diagnosed early, the survival rate is close to 90 percent.
“Breast cancer’s early diagnosis is the biggest challenge [and] when a radiologist reads a mammogram with a naked eye, the [chances of] misdiagnosis are over 30 percent,” Shahrukh Babar, Xylexa’s chief executive officer, told Arab News on Monday.
“We have developed an artificial intelligence-based decision support system which reads mammograms, processes them through innovative algorithms and exactly pinpoints where the anomaly is present and what type of anomaly it is, either it is benign or belligerent,” Babar said. “There is no subscription fee for our service as hospitals and individuals can pay per study. It is a cloud based application which can be accessed easily anywhere and anytime. Even patients will be able to upload their mammograms to get the diagnosis.”
The company began to develop the software in early 2017, and it is now being used on a trial basis in hospitals in The Netherlands and Germany. Xylexa hopes to release its application performance results by November and is developing partnerships with hospitals in Dubai, Europe and the US before it launches the software commercially next year after getting FDA certification, the CEO said.
“We are launching it in Pakistan by first quarter of next year, and will be launching it globally in 2021,” Babar said, adding that his company was closely working with an advisory board of oncologists and radiologists from North America and Canada to fine-tune the product.
Healthcare specialists say death by breast cancer can be prevented in one third of women if routine mammography was performed in women over 50 years of age.
“It is quite alarming that breast cancer is becoming common in younger age groups,” said Dr. Erum Khan, a surgeon and healthcare specialist at Polyclinic hospital in Islamabad. “The the only way to tackle it effectively is early and accurate detection.”

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

Updated 29 November 2020

Pakistan Steel Mills workers say will challenge mass layoffs in court

  • PSM management argues the company’s accumulated losses reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June
  • The termination of 4,500 contracts is believed to be the biggest layoff from a single entity in Pakistan’s history

KARACHI: Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees are going to challenge in court the company’s recent decision to terminate the contracts of thousands of workers, union representatives said on Sunday.

The management of the state-owned company on Friday handed letters of termination to some 4,500 employees, arguing that PSM’s accumulated losses had reached Rs212 billion ($1.33 billion) in June, when the government decided that 9,350 workers would have to be fired for the dysfunctional enterprise to be revived.
“PSM has terminated 4,500 employees in the first phase of government’s plan to lay off 9,350 employees ... The employees have refused to accept this termination they have registered protests and have decided to challenge this decision in court next week,” Mirza Maqsood, President of Voice of Pakistan Steel Officers Association, told Arab News.

Located 40 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan’s largest industrial complex with a steel production capacity of 1.1 million tons has been dysfunctional for the past few years. Its operations were suspended in 2015.
“Neither the Company has funds to revive the Mills nor are funds available from any other source to revive the Steel Mill. In any case, revival of the mill would require, firstly massive investment and secondly, entail a period of at least two years,” reads a PSM termination letter seen by Arab News.
The layoff was defended by federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar, who on Saturday said the terminated employees would be given compensation of Rs2.3 million on average.

“Since the closure of the mill, the government has paid around Rs35 billion as salaries and Rs20 billion as arears to the employees,” he said.

The discharge of workers is said to be one of the biggest layoffs of employees from a single government entity in the country’s history. 
 Karamat Ali, executive director at Pakistan Institute of Labor Education & Research (PILER), said the PSM layoff in unprecedented.
“No such number of employees have ever been fired from a single government institution,” he said.
The decision was also opposed by the provincial government of Sindh, which vowed to support the affected employees. 
“This is wrong and injustice. They (the federal government) must adhere to their earlier stance and commitments of turning the state institutions around with the help of their champions. I am with the employees,” Sindh Labor Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News.
Mumrez Khan, convener of a representative body of employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers and contractors of PSM, said that no serious efforts have been made by the federal government to revive the mill, claiming that negligence had caused losses even higher than those cited by PSM management.

“The accumulated losses have swelled to $12 billion on the account of closure of plants, revenue to the government and imports of steel products,” he said.