– Microsoft has launched a five-year, $40 million program called AI for Health, an initiative that will use artificial intelligence tools to address some of healthcare’s biggest challenges, including disease diagnosis and treatment and global health crises.
The AI for Health program will ensure that nonprofits, academia, and research organizations have access to the latest technology, resources, and technical experts to leverage AI for research and care delivery.
The AI for Health initiative will focus on accelerating medical research to advance the prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of diseases, as well as increasing understanding of mortality and longevity. The program will also work to promote health equity by improving access to care for underserved populations.
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges, like improving the health of communities around the world,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft.
“We know that putting this powerful technology into the hands of experts tackling this problem can accelerate new solutions and improve access for underserved populations. That’s why we created AI for Health.”
The AI for Health program will build on existing partnerships with organizations, including Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which aims to build an ecosystem that allows safe and secure sharing of biomedical data.
“Unlocking and sharing data is critical to discovering new ways to treat and ultimately cure cancer,” said Dr. Raphael Gottardo, scientific director, Translational Data Science Integrated Research Center, Fred Hutch. “Working in close collaboration with Microsoft, we will be able to harness new advances in AI, machine learning and cloud computing to spur innovation and open up new avenues for preventing and treating cancer and related diseases.”
In addition to facilitating data sharing, the AI for Health program will also aim to discover the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) through a partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“Recent collaborations with the Microsoft data science team have already showcased how AI can bring a deeper quality of research by helping us uncover important answers about breathing disorders and causes of infant mortality like SIDS,” said Dr. Nino Ramirez, director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“We are excited by the opportunity to continue our work together, combining our shared talents with cutting-edge computing tools that have the power to transform our field and ultimately save lives.”
Microsoft will also collaborate with the Novartis Foundation to eliminate leprosy.
“Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to humans, but today an estimated two to three million people are still living with the disease,” said Dr. Ann Aerts, head, Novartis Foundation.
“Around the world, we are working to accelerate efforts to eliminate leprosy by focusing on interventions that aim to interrupt transmission. The use of AI is transformative and a game changer in how we can accelerate progress and scale our work to reach the people in need.”
The AI for Health program will also work to detect diabetic retinopathy to prevent blindness, and accelerate advancements in the fields of maternal mortality, tuberculosis treatment, and pediatric cancer.
The primary foundation of the AI for Health program will be to support health equity and eliminate disparities in healthcare, which will lead to improved outcomes and reduced costs.
“There is a great need to focus on societal issues such as reducing health inequity and improving access to care for underserved populations,” John Kahan, Chief Data Analytics Officer at Microsoft, wrote in a recent blog post.
“While researchers work to unlock life-saving discoveries and develop new approaches to pressing health issues, advancements in technology can help accelerate and scale new solutions.”
The new program is part of Microsoft’s AI for Good initiative, a $165 million commitment to empower people and organizations working to create a positive impact on society that address the world’s toughest issues. The initiative includes AI for Accessibility, AI for Cultural Heritage, AI for Earth, and AI for Humanitarian Action.
“Through AI for Health, we will support specific nonprofits and academic collaboration with Microsoft’s leading data scientists, access to best-in-class AI tools and cloud computing, and select cash grants. As a tech company, it is our responsibility to ensure that organizations working on the most pressing societal issues have access to our latest AI technology and the expertise of our technical talent,” Kahan said.
“We look forward to working with researchers, academics, nonprofits, health industry professionals and policymakers around the world as we accelerate research and insights. Together, we can improve the health of people and communities globally.”