A foundation model for generalizable disease detection from retinal images

Yukun Zhou (Lead / Corresponding author), Mark A. Chia, Siegfried K. Wagner, Murat S. Ayhan, Dominic J. Williamson, Robbert R. Struyven, Timing Liu, Moucheng Xu, Mateo G. Lozano, Peter Woodward-Court, Yuka Kihara, UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium, Andre Altmann, Aaron Y. Lee, Eric J. Topol, Alastair K. Denniston, Daniel C. Alexander, Pearse A. Keane (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Medical artificial intelligence (AI) offers great potential for recognizing signs of health conditions in retinal images and expediting the diagnosis of eye diseases and systemic disorders 1. However, the development of AI models requires substantial annotation and models are usually task-specific with limited generalizability to different clinical applications 2. Here, we present RETFound, a foundation model for retinal images that learns generalizable representations from unlabelled retinal images and provides a basis for label-efficient model adaptation in several applications. Specifically, RETFound is trained on 1.6 million unlabelled retinal images by means of self-supervised learning and then adapted to disease detection tasks with explicit labels. We show that adapted RETFound consistently outperforms several comparison models in the diagnosis and prognosis of sight-threatening eye diseases, as well as incident prediction of complex systemic disorders such as heart failure and myocardial infarction with fewer labelled data. RETFound provides a generalizable solution to improve model performance and alleviate the annotation workload of experts to enable broad clinical AI applications from retinal imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-163
Number of pages8
Issue number7981
Early online date13 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2023


  • Translational research
  • Retinal diseases
  • Prognosis
  • Medical imaging
  • Cardiovascular diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'A foundation model for generalizable disease detection from retinal images'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this