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Microsoft partners with Johns Hopkins to support start-ups in AI and data science


By David Schwartz
Published: July 20th, 2021

Three faculty start-ups from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have each received $50,000 in Microsoft Innovation Acceleration Award grants to advance their data science and artificial intelligence technologies.

The grants extend a collaboration established last year between Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV) and Microsoft to help grow start-ups with technologies of interest to the computing giant. Microsoft also renewed its official sponsorship of JHTV incubator FastForward, enabling the company to engage with FastForward entrepreneurs through office hours, mentorship and other programming.

“Our startups and researchers have benefited from the technical and business support they’ve received from the Microsoft team, which has committed a tremendous amount of talent and time to Johns Hopkins,” said Mark VanderZyl, senior operations manager for FastForward. “We are excited to continue our work together and help even more teams advance their commercialization goals.”

The pair’s initial year of collaboration yielded 21 applications from commercial start-ups, 54 office hour sessions for advising, and support services provided by digital architects and developers with cloud computing service Microsoft Azure. Fifteen start-ups joined the Microsoft for Startups program, which provides commercialization support as well as access to technology including Azure, Microsoft 365 and GitHub Enterprise. Microsoft staff also occupied office space at FastForward and held monthly office hours for Johns Hopkins start-ups and inventors.

In this second year of Innovation Acceleration Award grants,  “our judges were impressed with the variety of data science and AI technologies being developed at Johns Hopkins,” said VanderZyl. “What set apart the grant winners was the disruptive impact the judges believe their innovations will have on society, hopefully in the very near future.”

Start-up award went to the EyeLearn platform, which uses deep-learning algorithms to analyze surgical videos to assess surgeon performance and provid a skill assessment; an AI-based consumer device called SleepSmart that can evaluate sleep at home by recording and analyzing breath sounds to diagnose snoring and sleep apnea; and Visilant, which is developing software that enables screening and automated diagnosis of blinding anterior segment eye diseases.

“Microsoft began its collaboration with FastForward and Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures to help support and bring to life technologies that could make a lasting impact in healthcare,” said Toni Townes-Whitley, the company’s president of U.S. Regulated Industries. “The extension of our collaboration is a testament to the innovative research and work coming out of these start-ups. We congratulate this year’s grant recipients, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact they will make in patients’ lives.”

Microsoft’s start-up awards are just the latest in its contributions to the university, which now total more than $7 million and earned the company an engraved spot on the Johns Hopkins Founders Wall.

Source: Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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