Industry-Sponsored Research Week

UPMC, Carnegie Mellon to use Amazon’s AI tools in Big Data-enabled health research

By David Schwartz
Published: August 12th, 2019

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and other leading prominent Pittsburgh research organizations have unveiled a plan to leverage an Amazon division’s machine learning capabilities to accelerate breakthroughs in patient care and product commercialization.

Amazon Web Services has agreed to share its machine learning and cloud computing resources with the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, a big data consortium formed in 2015 that includes UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. “As it relates to cloud computing and where it can go, we see AWS as the leader in this space,” said Rob Hartman, director of translational science for UPMC Enterprises.

The data alliance collects de-identified patient data from a number of sources including electronic health records, imaging records, prescriptions, genomic profiles and insurance records. That data is analyzed and used to improve diseases treatment and prevention. Machine learning technologies like those Amazon Web Services offers can help speed the movement of discoveries into clinical use, Amazon officials said.

According to Hartman, the arrangement is not a formal partnership governed by a contract, but a more formalized deal could emerge in the future.

Amazon Web Services does not receive commercialization rights in exchange for its contribution to any research that ultimately turns into products or services, Hartman said. For Amazon, the draw may be simply attaching its name to cutting-edge research and ensuring its products are in the mix, he added.  “There’s a lot of wins for them by getting in early and supporting innovative activity in healthcare,” Hartman said.

Amazon Web Services’ goal is to enable research that accelerates the development of innovative algorithms, publications, and source code across a variety of machine learning applications and focus areas, company spokeswoman Cortney Lusignan stated.

Researchers involved in the effort have identified eight projects they will target under the arrangement, reports Zariel Johnson, technical program manager with UPMC Enterprises. One of those projects will develop an algorithm to predict the best surgical interventions for abdominal aortic aneurysms before symptoms appear. Another project seeks to use machine learning to predict how tumors are likely to grow over time.

In another move toward engagement with academia, Amazon Web Services also announced a multiyear research sponsorship with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in March.

The emerging use of AI in healthcare is one part of what has become known as the fourth industrial revolution, said Pam Arlotto, CEO of the consultancy Maestro Strategies. This revolution combines physical, data and biological assets with digital capabilities, she said.

“When you pull it all together and use some of these machine learning algorithms, it could just take us into the next stratosphere,” Arlotto said.

Source: Modern Healthcare

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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