UF College of Pharmacy faculty to develop an AI-driven hepatitis C screening tool

Haesuk Park, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Florida College of Pharmacy’s department of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy, has secured a $3.3 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop an innovative, artificial intelligence-driven hepatitis C, or HCV, screening tool.

Dr. Haesuk Park
Dr. Haesuk Park

The tool, named HepC-EnD, is designed to enhance risk prediction and provide a user-friendly interface to assist physicians in making informed decisions regarding ordering screening tests for high-risk patients seen in emergency departments. While existing HCV screening programs in emergency departments have identified previously unrecognized cases, challenges persist in effectively identifying high-risk individuals. The HepC-EnD screening tool addresses these challenges by using innovative prediction algorithms.

“There is an urgent need to address the surge in HCV cases associated with the ongoing opioid epidemic, and this research aims to develop a cutting-edge screening tool employing advanced machine learning methods and natural language processing techniques,” Park said.

HCV infections have seen a significant increase in the United States. Over 50% of the 3.2 million individuals with chronic HCV remain undiagnosed, leading to substantial morbidity, mortality and transmission, despite the availability of safe and highly effective antiviral therapies.

Park’s research also aligns with global health initiatives, including the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate hepatitis by 2030. By combining cutting-edge technology with clinical practice, her study aims to bridge diagnostic gaps, streamline patient identification and ultimately increase successful treatment outcomes.

“As the project unfolds, it holds the promise of providing adaptable strategies to attain national and global goals in eliminating HCV infections,” Park said.

Khoa Nguyen, Pharm.D., a clinical assistant professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research, and Jenny Lo-Ciganic, Ph.D., M.S., M.S. Pharm., an associate professor of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy, are co-investigators on the award, along with faculty from the UF College of Medicine and the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.