The “Big Tech” Company in Health Care You May Not Know

“For over a decade we have partnered with the medical devices ecosystem to bring innovative diagnostic imaging, robotic surgery and patient monitoring devices to the market.”

Kimberly Powell, Vice President of Healthcare of NVIDIA
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Whenever you see articles about big tech companies entering or expanding their work in health care, including one of my previous posts, they generally feature the FAMGA (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon) companies. (Does the acronym need to be changed to MAMGA now that Zuckerberg has decided to try and make his problems go away by changing the company name to Meta? But, I digress….) A recent post by Dr. Bertalan Mesko, The Medical Futurist, added NVIDIA to the list. Now I knew that NVIDIA’s graphic processing units, long considered the gold standard for gaming applications, were used in medical imaging equipment to process large imaging files and support machine learning and AI applications. But I didn’t clearly understand how much of an emphasis NVIDIA was placing on the health care segment of their business.

The GPU manufacturer launched its A.I. platform, Clara, in 2018, designed to augment medical imaging and genomics. It followed up a year later with a toolkit for radiologists, Clara AI, to help classify images. In 2019, the tech giant also started exploring federated healthcare learning, the privacy-focused A.I. training method.

NVIDIA took an interest in the rise of telemedicine during the pandemic. Last September, NVIDIA announced that its researchers are working on an automated speech recognition tool for healthcare. It has been specifically trained to interpret clinical and biomedical language. As such, the software can help transcribe and better organize information from telemedicine visits.

Last October, NVIDIA also made healthcare-related announcements during the company’s annual GPU Technology Conference (GTC). Among those was the A.I. model that their researchers, along with the Massachusetts General Brigham Hospital, developed in 20 days. Their algorithm can determine the oxygen needs of a patient with COVID-19 symptoms. It combines health records and radiological images to help identify whether the patient will require additional oxygen hours or even days after an initial exam.

Also last October, NVIDIA announced its plans to build a computer, but rather than use it for gaming, it will aid in A.I. research in healthcare. Named Cambridge-1, it will be no regular computer either as it will be the UK’s most powerful supercomputer. Dedicated to advancing healthcare, Cambridge-1 is a $100m investment by Nvidia. Its first projects with AstraZeneca, GSK, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London, and Oxford Nanopore include developing a deeper understanding of brain diseases like dementia, using AI to design new drugs, and improving the accuracy of finding disease-causing variations in human genomes.

“The Cambridge-1 supercomputer will serve as a hub of innovation for the UK and further the groundbreaking work being done by the nation’s researchers in critical healthcare and drug discovery.”

Jensen Huang, NVIDIA founder and CEO

In March, the tech giant announced a partnership with Harvard University to develop an A.I.-based genome research toolkit. Named AtacWorks, it is even touted as being able to sequence a whole genome in 30 minutes. The tech company also plans to assist drug discovery with A.I. NVIDIA announced in mid-April a new A. I. project with pharma giant AstraZeneca and the University of Florida to boost drug discovery. The new drug-discovery model, named MegaMoIBART, is aimed at “reaction prediction, molecular optimization, and de novo molecular generation.” NVIDIA also announced during its 2021 GTC event its collaboration with Carestream Health, a medical imaging specialist. The latter will incorporate NVIDIA’s Clara A.I. platform into imaging devices used for X-ray screening.

My take – These recent developments indicate a rather focused path for NVIDIA in healthcare. While its plans aren’t as diverse as that of Amazon or Google, by focusing on its computing strengths, NIVIDIA positions itself as a company to watch in health care data and analytics. They believe that AI will be critically important in the future. So, they’re leveraging their strengths in that area to support clinical applications in medical imaging, digital pathology, cancer, genomic research, Alzheimer’s research, drug development, and physician training.

Demand for NVIDIA’s Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and Data Processing Units (DPUs) will continue to grow as the data requirements in health care accelerate over the next decade. They’ll be a significant player in supporting scientific research and clinical care in the future.

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