Microsoft Gives $20M to Fight COVID-19 with Artificial Intelligence


Microsoft is dedicating $20 million to advance the use of artificial intelligence and data science in COVID-19 research, with a particular focus on diagnostics, hospital resources, and other critical areas.

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The donation will bolster the efforts of Microsoft’s AI for Health initiative, a five-year, $40 million project that aims to advance the health of people and communities around the world.

“As of the time of writing, the COVID-19 virus has infected more than 1.4 million people around the world. The crisis has made it painfully clear that health transcends every border, impacting every person on the planet,” John Kahan, chief data analytics officer at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

“Given the urgency, we are mobilizing our AI for Health initiative to focus on helping those on the front lines of research of COVID-19. 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.”

COVID-19-related research efforts will focus on data and insights to inform safety and economic impacts, as well as the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Research will also explore the allocation of resources at hospitals across the country, dissemination of accurate information, and scientific studies to understand COVID-19.

“Data and computation will help light the path to mitigating the pandemic. We’re passionate about aiming our computing resources and expertise at empowering those with the most promising directions, including efforts in biomedicine, logistics, epidemiology and public health,” said Eric Horvitz, Microsoft’s Chief Scientific Officer.

The donation is part of Microsoft’s larger commitment to combating COVID-19. The corporation is working to support remote education and empower students around the world, helping businesses work from home, and securing needed medical supplies.

“Given the global scale of the pandemic, technology will play a critical role in nearly every facet of addressing COVID-19, from using AI to crunch massive datasets to analyzing disease vectors and identifying treatment impacts,” Kahan said.

“We 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.”

Microsoft has already engaged in several key partnerships to accelerate the fight against COVID-19, including the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a public-private effort led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. As part of the consortium, Microsoft is offering researchers access to the world’s most powerful computing resources, helping to speed the pace of scientific discovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Microsoft has also partnered with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a global health research organization at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The institute is releasing a set of COVID-19 data visualizations and forecasts that the White House, governors, and hospital administrators can use to mobilize resources.

Additionally, Microsoft is collaborating with the Washington State Department of Health on a dashboard that aims to increase the speed, timeliness, and accuracy of data reporting to the public. The dashboard relies on data reported by local health jurisdictions, healthcare facilities, and labs.

Finally, to better track understanding and progress against COVID-19, Microsoft has developed a set of interactive visualizations that the company will continue to update and refine with new data and insights.

Combating the COVID-19 pandemic, a global challenge, is well-suited for the goals of Microsoft’s AI for Health initiative. Launched in January 2020, AI for Health is designed to empower nonprofits, researchers, and organizations with AI and data science tools.

“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 when Microsoft announced the initiative.

“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.”

With this $20 million contribution, Microsoft expects to accelerate the speed with which researchers and healthcare professionals understand and develop solutions for COVID-19.

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