Microsoft dedicates $20M from AI for Health program to COVID-19 data analysis


Microsoft’s Power BI data visualization tool tracks statistics relating to the coronavirus epidemic. Click on the graphic for an interactive version. (Microsoft Graphic)

Microsoft says it’s immediately putting $20 million from its AI for Health program toward artificial intelligence tools that can help researchers and public health officials get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.

John Kahan, Microsoft’s chief data analytics officer, said AI for Health “will collaborate with nonprofits, governments, and academic researchers on solutions, and bring our experience to the table, providing access to Microsoft AI, technical experts, data scientists and other resources.”

“We’re focusing our efforts in five specific areas where we think data, analysis and the skills of our data scientists can have the biggest impact,” Kahan wrote today in a blog post about the effort. Those areas are:

  • Data and insights relating to safety and economic impacts.
  • Treatment and diagnostics, enabling research to further the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • Allocation of resources, including recommendations on the use of limited assets, such as hospital space and medical supplies.
  • Dissemination of accurate information to counter misinformation.
  • Scientific research to study and understand COVID-19..

Some of the money is going to support the recently announced COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is marshaling supercomputers and cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure to support coronavirus research.

Microsoft also highlighted its partnerships with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is using computer modeling to predict the course of the outbreak; the Washington State Department of Health, which is working on a new dashboard to visualize the latest statistics on the virus’ spread; [email protected], which uses distributed computing to identify promising proteins for COVID-19 therapies; and UW Medicine’s Sepsis Center of Research Excellence, which uses big data to predict and improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

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The beneficiaries aren’t limited to the United States: With support from Microsoft, a Brazilian venture called Take developed a chatbot to distribute information and connect potential patients to medical teams, to avoid overloading Brazilian hospitals. Closer to home, Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot has been adapted similarly for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.

“COVID-19 is a global problem and finding a solution will take all our efforts,” Kahan said. “We are humbled and honored to work with researchers across the globe and support them with this additional dedicated support from AI for Health.”

Read more: How AI is helping scientists fight COVID-19

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