Microsoft takes the wraps off $40 million, five-year 'AI for Health' initiative

Microsoft has earmarked $40 million for its newly launched 'AI for Health' philanthropic project, which will build on various healthcare-focused AI work happening inside the company and with customers and partners.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has added a new program to its "AI for Good" line-up. Its new "AI for Health" initiative joins its existing AI for Earth; AI for Accessibility; AI for Humanitarian Action; and AI for Cultural Heritage projects. Microsoft is funding the AI for Health project at $40 million over four years.

Through its AI for Good projects, Microsoft is applying lessons from software to artificial intelligence technologies that are under development. In the case of health, Microsoft officials said their mission is to use insights derived from AI technologies and techniques to search for cures for diseases that plague humanity.

Microsoft's Chief Data Analytics Officer, John Kahan, will be heading up the new AI for Health project. Microsoft developed the project with "leading health experts who are driving important medical initiatives," according to its blog post.

The three focus areas for the initiative are: to accelerate medical research around prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases; generate new insights around mortality and longevity; improve health equity by increasing access to care for underserved populations. 

Microsoft made its initial foray into healthcare over a decade ago, but ended up retrenching and selling off most of the health assets it originally acquired. A couple of years ago, Microsoft announced it was creating a new healthcare-focused research unit, Healthcare NExT.  

Healthcare is one of Microsoft's highest priority verticals, as it's a growing and pervasive market.  In the U.S., various Microsoft product teams, along with Microsoft Research have been working with customers to build cloud-based AI platforms to "integrate information across healthcare providers, pharmacies, and payers in ways that create personalized, community-based care network."