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Microsoft Launches New AI for Good Program, AI for Health, to Accelerate Global Health Initiatives

New $40m, Five-Year Program Aims to Leverage the Power of Artificial Intelligence to Advance the Health of People and Communities

Microsoft Corp. announced AI for Health, a new $40 million, five-year program and part of the AI for Good initiative, that will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technology to empower researchers and organizations addressing some of the world’s toughest challenges in health.

“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.” In a new era of tech intensity, in which technology is reshaping every organization and becoming embedded in the fabric of every aspect of our lives, digital advances will continue to reshape our world in profound ways. AI represents one of technology’s most important priorities, and healthcare is perhaps AI’s most urgent application. However, the talent and resources required to equip health researchers with tools to deploy AI and data science is unevenly distributed. Less than 5% of the world’s AI professionals today work in health and nonprofit organizations. It is crucial to provide these mission-driven researchers with the tools they need to accelerate and expand their work.

Through AI for Health, Microsoft will work to ensure that nonprofits, academia and research organizations have access to the latest technology, resources and technical experts to help implement AI to accelerate research, generate insights and improve access to care. The AI for Health initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Quest for discovery. Accelerating medical research to advance prevention, diagnoses and treatment of diseases.
  • Global health insights. Increasing our shared understanding of mortality and longevity to protect against global health crises.
  • Health equity. Reducing health inequity and improving access to care for underserved populations.

Microsoft’s efforts will build on existing collaborations with organizations to help solve pressing issues, like discovering the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), eliminating leprosy, detecting diabetic retinopathy to prevent blindness, and building an ecosystem that allows safe and secure sharing of biomedical data.

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We are honored to announce several grantees, including BRAC, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS), Novartis Foundation, PATH, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

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“Countries like Bangladesh, where BRAC was founded, have made enormous strides in health equity in the last three decades. Unfortunately, at least half the world’s population still lacks access to essential health services,” said Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC. “Across our outreach areas in Asia and Africa, we see massive potential in using advanced data analytics and AI to bridge the gap between ‘health for some’ and ‘health for all,’ and we welcome Microsoft’s commitment in making this happen.”

“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.”

“Diabetes is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness in the U.S.; however, 95% of vision loss is preventable due to modern therapies such as the diabetic retinal exam (DRE),” said Dr. Sunil Gupta, founder and chief medical officer, Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS).

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“We can make a huge impact on people’s lives through the early detection of sight-threatening disease, and advanced technologies can accelerate these efforts,” said Steve Martin, CEO of IRIS. “Through the use of AI, we can scale our diagnostic software to reach underserved communities and help end preventable blindness.”

“Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to humans, but today an estimated 2 to 3 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.”

“At PATH we’re focused on using innovation to remove barriers so that everyone can receive the healthcare they need to thrive. Along with Microsoft, we believe there is tremendous power in using AI to help us see all communities, identify the diseases that affect them, and ultimately improve the way they deliver care. Only when every community has the opportunity to transform their health can all of humanity advance,” said Jeff Bernson, MPA, MPH, chief data officer, vice president, Technology, Analytics, and Marketing Innovation, PATH.

“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 sudden infant death syndrome (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.”

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