Microsoft launches $40M program to support nonprofit AI research

Microsoft has announced a new $40 million, five-year program designed to help nonprofit organizations and academic researchers develop and implement AI-based healthcare solutions.

The new AI for Health program will award grants to projects looking to accelerate medical research, combat the rise of global health issues and reduce health inequality. It is a key part of the larger AI for Good Initiative, which has committed $165 million “to empower people and organizations working to create a positive impact on society that address the world's toughest issues.”

“AI has the potential to solve some of humanity's greatest challenges, like improving the health of communities around the world,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said in a prepared statement. “We know that putting this powerful technology into the hands of experts tackling this problem can accelerate new solutions and improve access for underserved populations. That's why we created AI for Health.”

The initial list of grant recipients includes BRAC, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS), Novartis Foundation, PATH and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“We can make a huge impact on people's lives through the early detection of sight-threatening disease, and advanced technologies can accelerate these efforts,” Steve Martin, IRIS CEO, said in the same statement. “Through the use of AI, we can scale our diagnostic software to reach underserved communities and help end preventable blindness.”

“At PATH we're focused on using innovation to remove barriers so that everyone can receive the healthcare they need to thrive,” added Jeff Bernson, MPA, MPH, PATH’s chief data officer and vice president of technology, analytics and marketing innovation. “Along with Microsoft, we believe there is tremendous power in using AI to help us see all communities, identify the diseases that affect them, and ultimately improve the way they deliver care. Only when every community has the opportunity to transform their health can all of humanity advance.”