Microsoft Corp. has joined forces with a Seattle biotechnology firm to use artificial intelligence software to help diagnose and treat immune system diseases using a simple blood test.
The partnership combines Adaptive Biotechnologies’ sequencing technologies with Microsoft’s research and large-scale machine learning and Azure cloud computing capabilities. The goal is to create a universal diagnostic tool – all from a simple blood test.
Last year Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) made a US $45 million investment in Adaptive with a view to developing a partnership that aims to map the genetics of the human immune system, or immunome. The focus is on detecting cancers and other diseases in their earliest stage. If detected early, these diseases can be treated more effectively.
In January, the companies said work has begun diagnosing type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and Lyme disease.
Microsoft executive Peter Lee, speaking at a Microsoft conference for healthcare developers recently, said the technology could be commercially available within a few years. As reported by Geekwire, Lee said the development sounded a lot like science fiction when he first heard about it. As a Star Trek fan he likened it to a device in the 1960s series called a Tricorder, a handheld medical diagnostic tool. Lee said he is convinced it is a viable technology.
Adaptive Biotechnologies raised US $345 million in a Nasdaq IPO July 1. Roche’s US arm Genentech has also made an investment in the company.
Biotechnology drugs differ from pharmaceutical drugs in that they use microorganisms, such as those found in bacteria, or biological substances, like enzymes, to do the work.
Biotechnological tools have become increasingly important in drug research and development with about 33% of global drug revenues now derived from some form of biopharma.
The most common biotech uses are in cancer treatments, metabolic disorders and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. According to one recent study, the share of global drugs in preclinical testing that rely on biotechnology is more than 25%. This is helping the pharmaceutical industry develop new products, new processes and services.
There is growing demand for things like DNA sequencing and recombinant technology. The latter process joins DNA molecules from two different species and inserts it into a host organism to create new DNA. Other growth areas include tissue engineering and treatments of chronic diseases.
Microsoft’s investment in Adaptive is another example of how new technologies are transforming healthcare. These innovations are creating new ways of diagnosing illnesses, and helping doctors provide better treatment options.
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