Haifa-based start-up ThermoMind developing non-invasive early-stage breast cancer detection

“Our motivation in moving to Israel was to make an Israeli innovation. Israel is the start-up nation, and we wanted to be a part of it", says Dr. Larissa Adamyan, ThermoMind co-founder.

Dr. Larissa Adamyan, co-founder and CTO of Haifa-based ThermoMind, speaking at Jerusalem Post Women Leaders Summit. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Dr. Larissa Adamyan, co-founder and CTO of Haifa-based ThermoMind, speaking at Jerusalem Post Women Leaders Summit.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Najeeb Ayoub and Dr. Larissa Adamyan, co-founders of Haifa-based ThermoMind, have a simple, if daunting, goal in mind. “Our vision,” says Ayoub, company CEO, “is to develop a medical device to detect early-stage breast cancer.” In August, the start-up, which was founded less than a year ago, received an 11.6 million Euro grant from Horizon Europe, the EU’s funding program for research and innovation, for a clinical study at twelve clinical sites in Israel, Europe and the United States.

ThermoMind’s backstory dates to a meeting between Ayoub and Adamyan during a Covid lockdown in Berlin several years ago. Adamyan, who studied at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and received her PhD. in artificial intelligence and mathematics from Humboldt University in Berlin, was working in data analytics in the financial industry at the time. When the pandemic struck, she began to apply machine learning for chest x-ray analysis of Covid-19 cases.

Ayoub, who was born in Israel, moved to Germany fourteen years ago, and trained in cybersecurity. The two made their acquaintance in Berlin and began discussing the need for digitization and data analysis in medical care. Ayoub and Adamyan, who both have cancer in their family medical histories, decided to approach the concept of developing thermal imaging for breast cancer detection. “Since we come from the technology side and also have some academic and clinical expertise,” says Adamyan,  “we said we should go for this and tackle it from the business side.”

ThermoMind was founded in Israel in April 2022 and formed a consortium with eighteen partners, consisting of leading hospitals and research institutes worldwide. “We pitched the opportunity for doctors and professors to collaborate in a massive clinical study with 28,000 participants in a number of diverse communities,” says Adamyan, the company’s CTO (chief technical officer). ThermoMind will begin its clinical study this June, and Ayoub says the company plans to have its product on the market in two years.

The thermal scanning device uses high-resolution infrared sensors developed by SCD, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, to capture breast thermograms, analyzes them using advanced artificial intelligence algorithms, and identifies abnormal patterns in temperature distribution on the surface of the breast. The screening device scans the entire chest and armpit area using thermal sensors that are positioned near the patient that scan from all angles without any physical contact or repositioning of the patient, and the diagnostics platform analyzes the thermal screening data and patient variables using advanced algorithms to detect metabolic abnormalities and asymmetry, which indicate malignancy.

Adamyan explains that standard mammography causes ionizing radiation, patient discomfort and has greatly limited accuracy when applied to young women or women with dense breasts. ThermoMind’s scanning and technology-driven solution is risk-free, non-invasive, comfortable for the patient, and works equally well with women in all age groups and breast densities. Clinicians are motivated to use detection methods that can reduce false-positive rates, which can lead to unnecessary biopsies.

“We are developing a modality that is risk-free and patient-oriented,” explains Adamyan. “We spoke with cancer patient advocacy groups to take the needs of the patients into account. We want the patient to be comfortable during the screening. You just sit for twelve minutes in front of the device.” Adamyan adds that the multiple sensors on the device work in synchronization with each other and screen the patient from all angles so that the patient does not have to be repositioned.

Ayoub and Adamyan point out that thermal imaging has never been used to detect breast cancer, and as they are the only company that is currently developing this technology, they need to establish new protocols and standards for the modality. Adamyan adds that ThermoMind’s technology could be used to detect other cancers, such as skin and thyroid cancer, and other diseases that affect metabolic functionality. Since thermal imaging is risk-free, she notes, it can also be used for patient monitoring for patients who have been treated for breast cancer in the past, to detect reoccurrences.

The company was the recipient of the Next-Gen Women Entrepreneurship Award winner at the recent Jerusalem Post Women Leaders Summit, and Adamyan and Ayoub are pleased that the company has set up shop in Israel.

“Our motivation in moving to Israel,” concludes Adamyan, “was to make an Israeli innovation. Israel is the start-up nation, and we wanted to be a part of it. We realized how fast we could build our network, and people are very supportive. There is great talent here, and being here has also allowed us to get the best and most accurate sensor technology in the market. It’s great to be in Israel to do that.”