Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Google delves deeper into healthcare with Google DeepMind

You may have heard one or two things about a UK artificial intelligence company called DeepMind after it was bought by Google in January 2014.

This is actually not Google's first attempt at healthcare. From Calico, Alphabet's research and development company whose mission is to "tackle ageing", to Verily which is currently developing a smart contact lens that can help diabetics monitor glucose levels, the search giant is investing heavily in healthcare.

DeepMind has announced a partnership with the UK's  National Health Service to use machine learning to recognise life-threatening conditions detected in the eye and degenerative eye conditions- which is considered one of the world's biggest health problems.

For example, diabetes is on the rise. It’s estimated that 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population are affected. It’s also the leading cause of blindness in the working age population - if you’re diabetic you are 25 times more likely to suffer some kind of sight loss. Early detection and treatment can prevent 98% of severe visual loss resulting from diabetes - but that doesn’t always happen.

Projects include a deal with London Moorfields eye hospital (one of the best in the world), which will see it using one million eye scans to train its artificial intelligence system to diagnose potential sight issues, and development of an app to help doctors spot acute kidney disease.

Google's entry on to the healthcare scene has been welcomed by some, notably doctors who are desperate to apply some cutting-edge technology to old NHS systems.

The company was founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman in London, 2010. DeepMind was supported by some of the most iconic tech entrepreneurs and investors of the past decade, prior to being acquired by Google in early 2014 in their largest European acquisition to date. The acquisition is estimated to about 300-400 million pounds.

According to the founders, they founded DeepMind to solve intelligence and use it to make the world a better place by developing technologies that help address some of society's toughest challenges. It was clear to us that we should focus on healthcare because it’s an area where we believe we can make a real difference to people’s lives across the world.

We're starting in the UK, where the National Health Service is hugely important to our team. The NHS helped bring many of us into the world, and has looked after our loved ones when they've most needed help.

"We want to see the NHS thrive, and to ensure that its talented clinicians get the tools and support they need to continue providing world-class care.

"Frontline nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals who spend their days treating patients know better than anyone what's needed to provide outstanding care. We at DeepMind Health aim to support clinicians by providing the technical expertise needed to build and scale technologies that help them provide the best possible care to their patients," the company said on its website.

According to Mr Suleyman, "making the world a better place" has always been part of DeepMind's somewhat lofty ambition to "solve intelligence".

Two years ago he decided that it was a good time to "make good the second part of that mission" and set about looking for ways where the company could make a difference.

"We looked at nano-materials, synthetic biology, renewable energy, transport trying to figure out how tech could make a difference and I realised that healthcare - it we could get it right - then the margin for beneficial impact was enormous."