In the dynamic realm of technological advancement, Francisco Maria Calisto stands out not just as a researcher, but as a visionary transforming the landscape of medical diagnostics through artificial intelligence. As a proud alumnus of the European Innovation Academy (EIA) Porto 2023 edition, Francisco has made significant strides in the field. His team’s venture, BreastScreening-AI, achieved remarkable recognition by ranking among the TOP 10 teams at the event, underscoring AI’s potential impact on healthcare. Currently working at the Instituto Superior Técnico at the University of Lisbon, Francisco is dedicated to enhancing breast cancer diagnostics and patient care with innovative AI solutions. Our engaging conversation explores his inspiring journey from academia to entrepreneurship, driven by his success at EIA and his ambitious goals for the future.

Francisco Maria Calisto - EIA Porto 2023 alumn and BreastScreening-AI CEO
Francisco Maria Calisto – Alumn of EIA Porto 2023 and the CEO of BreastScreening-AI

Can you explain the AI technology your team is developing and its potential impact on healthcare?
Absolutely! Our team is developing an AI-driven technology specifically for breast cancer screening. This technology leverages advanced algorithms to analyze medical images with greater precision than traditional methods. By reducing diagnostic errors—specifically aiming to lower the rates of false positives by about 22% and false negatives by about 4%—our AI system not only improves the accuracy of diagnostics but also significantly decreases the number of unnecessary biopsies and other invasive procedures. These procedures are not only costly but also stressful for patients, leading to potential savings in healthcare spending.

Moreover, by enhancing diagnostic efficiency, our AI reduces the average time spent per diagnosis from eleven minutes to just three. This improvement allows healthcare facilities to manage their workload more effectively, potentially reducing the strain on resources and allowing for better allocation of medical personnel. For instance, in Portugal alone, our pilot studies suggest that the use of our AI could reduce governmental healthcare expenditures related to breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment from 40 million to 7 million euros annually. This dramatic cost reduction underscores the significant economic impact AI technology can have on national healthcare systems.

In summary, our AI technology not only promises to improve patient outcomes through more accurate diagnostics but also offers substantial financial benefits by optimizing resource use and reducing unnecessary medical spending, which is crucial for sustainable healthcare.


So you are actually solving a 33 million euro problem. How did participating in EIA help you with transitioning from a researcher to an entrepreneur?
The experience at EIA was transformative. Thanks to a scholarship provided by the Santander Foundation, I was able to participate in the program, which played a crucial role in my transition from a researcher to entrepreneur. It provided a comprehensive ecosystem that equipped us with essential skills, mentorship, and a variety of resources. These resources included methodologies and a strong network of people who are now supporting our new company. A critical component was mastering customer discovery. Understanding the market, identifying customer needs, and knowing how to address them were integral to our development. This foundation has been invaluable, especially now as we apply for several funding programs. Much of the information and strategy we present in these applications are directly influenced by what we learned at EIA. After the program, Breast Screening-AI continued to evolve through participation in the Santander X Launch program, which further refined our business strategies and expanded our network within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
BreastScreening-AI team at EIA Porto 2023


How do you now combine the roles of an entrepreneur and a researcher?

Combining the roles of an entrepreneur and a researcher is challenging but deeply rewarding. You need to maintain a dual focus: driving innovation through research and translating that research into a viable business. This necessitates a strong R&D structure and an effective workflow to remain competitive in the market. Essentially, it means working twice as hard as you would in one role alone. It’s not easy, but the effort is worthwhile, particularly when you see the potential to impact society positively. Being nominated as a Change Maker by WIPO has been a significant honor, reinforcing my commitment to this dual role.

At the end of the day, the ability to innovate and effect change provides the motivation to manage these demanding but fulfilling roles.


Can you provide an update on the current state of your BreastScreening-AI project, 10 months after your participation in EIA Porto 2023?

Ten months after EIA Porto 2023, our BreastScreening-AI project has progressed significantly. Since our participation in the academy, we officially registered BreastScreening-AI as a company in January 2024. Our core team has expanded; four of the initial EIA team members continue to work on the project, and we’ve welcomed four new members to strengthen our capabilities.

Currently, we’re gearing up to expand the reach and impact of our technology. A crucial next step for us is conducting clinical trials, which are essential for validating the efficacy of our AI systems in real-world settings. We are actively seeking to forge more collaborations with medical institutions worldwide. These partnerships are vital for gathering diverse, high-quality datasets and ensuring that our AI models are annotated accurately by experienced radiologists. This will enhance the models’ accuracy and their utility in clinical practice.

In addition to improving breast cancer diagnostics, we’re exploring potential applications of our technology in other areas of medical imaging, such as lung and brain cancer diagnostics, areas which hold personal significance and immense potential for impact.

On the business front, we’re focusing on scaling our operations and entering new markets. We recently won the TEF-Health competition, a milestone that will facilitate our application for necessary regulatory and compliance processes, paving the way for broader implementation.

Our ultimate goal remains clear: to establish BreastScreening-AI as a leader in AI-driven healthcare solutions. With ongoing projects, an expanding team, and strategic partnerships, we’re well on our way to achieving that vision.


What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow your path and aims to bring their academic research results and inventions to the market?

My advice to anyone looking to transition academic research into marketable innovations is to start with a deep understanding of the problem you are addressing and the specific needs of the market. It’s crucial to not just have a functional product but to ensure that it’s finely tuned to address these needs effectively.

Remember, you are the expert on your technology and research; you’re best positioned to make the necessary adjustments to fit the market. Engaging early and regularly with potential users is vital. Validate your assumptions, gather feedback, and continuously refine your solution based on this input. Whether it’s end-users or key stakeholders who might influence the deployment of your product, their insights can guide significant improvements.

Participation in programs like the European Innovation Academy can be incredibly beneficial—they provide resources, support, and networking opportunities that are hard to find elsewhere. The EIA was instrumental in teaching us the importance of customer discovery and market fit, lessons that have been crucial to our progress.

Additionally, surrounding yourself with knowledgeable mentors and advisors can accelerate your development and help you navigate the challenges of bringing a technical product to market. We are currently expanding our advisory board to ensure we remain on the cutting edge and can adapt to changes and challenges swiftly.

It’s a demanding journey, requiring resilience and a growth mindset. Entrepreneurship involves navigating numerous challenges and setbacks, but the rewards of making a real impact are immense. This is the path to changing not just markets, but lives. Resilience has been vital in sustaining our efforts and pushing through challenges.