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Towards Generalist Biomedical AI

Danny Driess
Andrew Carroll
Chuck Lau
Ryutaro Tanno
Ira Ktena
Anil Palepu
Basil Mustafa
Simon Kornblith
Philip Mansfield
Sushant Prakash
Renee Wong
Sunny Virmani
Sara Mahdavi
Bradley Green
Ewa Dominowska
Joelle Barral
Pete Florence
NEJM AI (2024)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Medicine is inherently multimodal, requiring the simultaneous interpretation and integration of insights between many data modalities spanning text, imaging, genomics, and more. Generalist biomedical artificial intelligence systems that flexibly encode, integrate, and interpret these data might better enable impactful applications ranging from scientific discovery to care delivery. METHODS: To catalyze development of these models, we curated MultiMedBench, a new multimodal biomedical benchmark. MultiMedBench encompasses 14 diverse tasks, such as medical question answering, mammography and dermatology image interpretation, radiology report generation and summarization, and genomic variant calling. We then introduced Med-PaLM Multimodal (Med-PaLM M), our proof of concept for a generalist biomedical AI system that flexibly encodes and interprets biomedical data including clinical language, imaging, and genomics with the same set of model weights. To further probe the capabilities and limitations of Med-PaLM M, we conducted a radiologist evaluation of model-generated (and human) chest x-ray reports. RESULTS: We observed encouraging performance across model scales. Med-PaLM M reached performance competitive with or exceeding the state of the art on all MultiMedBench tasks, often surpassing specialist models by a wide margin. In a side-by-side ranking on 246 retrospective chest x-rays, clinicians expressed a pairwise preference for Med-PaLM Multimodal reports over those produced by radiologists in up to 40.50% of cases, suggesting potential clinical utility. CONCLUSIONS: Although considerable work is needed to validate these models in real-world cases and understand if cross-modality generalization is possible, our results represent a milestone toward the development of generalist biomedical artificial intelligence systems.