This article has been written by Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan Public Sector, Amazon Web Services
2020 was a year like no other. By March, COVID-19 had spread around the world impacting families, businesses, and communities. And, one year later, many are still fighting the spread of the virus, which has since introduced several new variants that are threatening our communities. The speed at which the virus spread left diagnostics for the disease lagging and the healthcare community looking for new ways to use technology to help.
As countries grappled with the challenge of scaling COVID-19 testing, we launched the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative to help organizations around the world apply the power of the cloud to accelerate diagnostics research and development. Through this initiative, AWS committed $20 million in computing credits and customized expertise from the AWS Professional Services team to support customers using AWS to drive diagnostic innovations.
In the first phase of the initiative, AWS has helped 87 organizations in 17 countries ranging from startups, nonprofits, research institutions, and businesses. We have awarded $8 million supporting a range of diagnostic projects including molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus.
As we launch the next phase, we are excited to broaden the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative’s scope and distribute the remaining $12 million this year. From 12 April 2021, we are expanding the scope to three new areas: 1) early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and at the community level, 2) prognosis to better understand disease trajectory, and 3) public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide. While AWS will prioritize COVID-19 projects, we will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases. We will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority consideration given to applications received before July 31. Interested organizations can apply here.
AWS has seen transformative innovations in how startups and organizations diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high quality, and direct-to-consumer tests. These changes will continue to evolve and improve a country’s ability to respond to future outbreaks.
Speeding customer innovation
The AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative has accelerated projects that are changing what is possible with medical diagnostics and having an immediate impact on COVID-19 detection. These projects are not only enabling the medical community to rapidly respond to COVID-19, but also have implications for many other infectious diseases. Here are some examples of the projects funded by the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative:
Medo uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help healthcare professionals quickly identify severe COVID-19 cases
Medo is an AI healthcare startup founded in Singapore and headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, that leveraged support from the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to expedite the development of its Medo Lung solution. Medo Lung would allow a quick ultrasound scan of the lung to be reviewed by an AI algorithm to detect whether a patient has normal lung function or is suffering from complications such as interstitial pneumonitis, which leads to many of the severe complications associated with COVID-19. These scans could be performed in thousands of patients together with diagnostic swabs in COVID-19 screening clinics, to assist with rapid, accurate patient triage by helping identify those who urgently need to go to hospital. This would also eliminate the need for patients, particularly the elderly, to leave their homes and visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary, preserving hospital resources, and avoiding potential exposure in the process.
By leveraging AWS and ultrasound, Medo has helped radiologists and clinicians to perform and facilitate the diagnosis of several other medical conditions, in addition to the lung. As a result, caregivers are able to more quickly and accurately diagnose common and critical conditions, and therefore are able to understand the right course of treatment for patients quicker.
Medo currently pilots its Medo Lung solution in Canada. In addition to COVID-19, Medo Lung will also scan for diseases like pneumonia, pleural effusions, pneumothorax, and pulmonary edema.
“COVID-19 really crystallized our vision of democratizing medical imaging and bringing our solution to as many people as we can by highlighting the need for AI-driven diagnostics that can be administered by any caregiver at the point of care where it’s needed the most, keeping patients comfortable and safe. With the help of advanced AWS AI and ML services like Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Textract, we were able to develop Medo Lung that will make a big difference for patients in both the short term and long after the pandemic subsides.” — David Quail, Co-founder, Medo
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping us to democratize ultrasound self-diagnosis across the planet with the help of AWS. The cloud has allowed us to greatly improve patient outcomes, including in remote areas that would not otherwise have the infrastructure needed to perform or manage such patients. Scanning an organ takes just a few seconds and our algorithm provides reliable results in less than a minute, making access to medical imaging and early reliable diagnosis a reality for all.” — Dr Jeevesh Kapur, Radiologist and Co-Founder, Medo
Oncophenomics detects mutated COVID-19 virus quickly through next-generation sequencing
Oncophenomics is a healthtech startup based in Hyderabad, India that develops diagnostics solutions for cancer and infectious diseases. The company is studying the genetic epidemiology of the COVID-19 virus in India and is addressing the need for rapid, accurate, and affordable testing and applying it at scale so that the country can implement a test and track approach to identify infected individuals and impose quarantine measures on those infected with the more dangerous variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Not all diagnostic tests in the market are able to detect these new variants of concern. Confronted with the lack of variant-specific diagnostic tests, Oncophenomics has developed a two-step comprehensive saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution that is able to test patients for COVID-19 on-site in minutes (self-administered test; no need for swabs, or requiring the support of a phlebotomist or lab technician) and the positive samples are shipped to a centralized laboratory to accurately diagnose COVID-19 virus variants using third-generation real-time long-read sequencing (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) approach to sequence the complete viral RNA within hours with the same saliva sample.
The sequencing data is being uploaded and analyzed on AWS Cloud using Oncophenomics’ proprietary bioinformatics pipelines and allows the startup to compare every patient sample against a global repository of more than one million COVID-19 virus genomes via GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data – an initiative that promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the virus causing COVID-19) within minutes and generate a variant report quickly with clinical correlation.
Governments, public health initiatives, laboratory and healthcare professionals can use this platform to effectively identify the individuals infected with COVID-19 virus variants and plan appropriate interventions to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community. Such rapid interventions are needed to combat the second wave of COVID-19 cases rising in India and other countries.
Oncophenomics’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution will undergo ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research – the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world) performance evaluation and clinical validation by June 2021 for CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization – India’s national regulatory body for pharmaceuticals and medical devices) regulatory approval and will be launched in India first, followed by Singapore and other APAC markets.
“AWS makes it easy for us to work on the cloud. Our goal is to address the issue of COVID-19 test performance in light of new variants affecting the conventional RT PCR (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests – its accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity. We have devoted all our resources to developing a robust end-to-end COVID-19 diagnostics solution within a short time frame and at a critical time where the world is facing an imminent threat of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Some of the data analysis is computationally intensive and can only be run on the cloud.
Without the publicly available datasets (GISAID) and AWS’s scalable cloud computing capabilities, it would have been impossible to develop this COVID-19 variants testing solution. Currently, our saliva-based testing solution, the part-1 point of care test is targeting India specific mutations (while the part-2 nanopore sequencing can discover all mutations), but we hope to customize it for any region across the world to help combat the new COVID-19 wave.” — Dr Shibichakravarthy Kannan, MBBS, PhD, Founder & CEO, Oncophenomics Inc.
Stanford University School of Medicine develops smartwatch-based “alarm system” for diagnostics
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Healthcare Innovation Lab have developed a smartwatch app designed to correctly flag signs of fighting a potential COVID-19 infection. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count. Early results are promising, and a pilot trial successfully alerted newly infected individuals as early as 10 days before they became aware of any symptoms.
The app has entered the next phase of study, and the Stanford team is recruiting participants with the goal of reaching 10 million participants to increase its ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real-time. This smartwatch-based early detection system was built on AWS with the support of the AWS Professional Services team, who has collaborated with the researchers to help the study scale its data processing pipeline.
“We’re hopeful that ongoing screening using wearable devices can provide scalable diagnostics solutions to overcome current testing barriers, and that expanding data access to a broader range of researchers will contribute to new discoveries that improve human health. We look forward to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the cloud.” — Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics for Stanford University’s School of Medicine
We continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of our customers across the world in their use of cloud technology to accelerate diagnostics to help citizens fight against COVID-19 during this trying time, and support governments to prioritize healthcare resources to save more lives. We look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organizations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks.
The Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong and a global tech giant recently jointly announced a request for proposals (RFP) for the company’s AR/VR Policy Research in the Asia Pacific region. This research initiative invites the region’s academic community to develop solutions-focused research to support the responsible development of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
This includes identifying positive approaches to address policy issues and challenges, as well as opportunities in the metaverse and augmented and virtual reality, ultimately giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.
With the metaverse becoming the next chapter of the internet, Meta’s vision is to have a billion people accessing the metaverse as part of their daily lives within ten years. That relies on people being in control of their experiences and feeling safe and secure. This RFP reaffirms the tech giant’s commitment to ensuring the responsible development and use of AR/VR technologies and building strong collaborations with policymakers, experts and industry partners to bring the metaverse to life.
The Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Governance stated that the RFP forms part of the Tech for Good Initiative that aims to bring scholars and practitioners together to catch up with the latest development of technologies and explore how the interplay between emerging technologies and public policy works. The Centre is committed to the attainment of a sustainable society and advanced technologies will help address some of the most critical sustainability challenges we are facing today.
The Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong and the company are inviting faculty to respond to this call for research proposals on the following topics:
- Economic opportunity: people can be given more choice, how competition can be encouraged, how a thriving digital economy can be maintained
- Privacy: how the amount of data used can be minimised, how to build technology to enable privacy-protective data uses, and give people transparency and control over their data
- Safety and integrity: how people can be kept safe online and be given tools to take action or get help if they see something they’re not comfortable with
- Equity and inclusion: ensuring these technologies are designed inclusively and in a way that’s accessible
- New Use Cases: what are new applications of immersive technology that create substantial value for people and communities
The research initiative targets to award a total of 6 awards, each in the US$100,000 range funded by the firm’s XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year US$50 million investment in programmes and independent external research to help in the effort of building the metaverse responsibly. The submission deadline is 25 July 2022, and the results will be announced on 5 September 2022.
The global augmented reality and virtual reality market, in the current year (2022), is expected to have a market size of US$37.0 billion and grow up to US$114.5 billion by 2027 within a 5-year forecast period at a market growth rate of 25.3%.
The driving factors behind this growth include increased healthcare applications of augmented reality, increased applications of augmented reality and virtual reality in retail and e-commerce, strong government funding for the facilitation of growth of the AR and VR market, partnerships between augmented reality device manufacturers and various service industries, the rise in the usage and demand for virtual reality in e-learning, medical training, increased demand of virtual reality in manufacturing divisions.
Business not as usual
COVID-19 has affected everyone; it is a global phenomenon that has forced all sectors to rethink and strategise, prompting many businesses to implement emergency work-from-home plans and the use of various digital platforms.
Simultaneously, many organisations are looking for a solution that offers content design and development with data analytics that would speed up software adoption and serve clients more effectively.
A low-code software platform has been developed to enable organisations to measure, drive and act to maximise the efficacy of their digital transformation and accelerate the return on investment in software applications. This low-code software is a Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) that enables teams to add on-screen navigation hints to websites and apps without recoding them.
In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Rafael Sweary, President and Co-Founder of WalkMe, elaborated on the latest trends seen in digital transformation and innovation. The explanation was accompanied by a website demonstration during the interview.
Because of the numerous intricacies involved, digital transformation used to be a lengthy process that could take months to complete for businesses. Nowadays, the transition can be completed in a couple of weeks or even days.
“The goal of technology is to help people. Instead of you trying to understand systems and know-how to run systems, you would tell the programme what to do and the platform would walk you through the process and do it for you, making you much more efficient and focused on your task,” said Rafael.
WalkMe guides end-users through business applications used in today’s workplace, identifying pauses and hesitations to provide real-time assistance onscreen without having to toggle between interfaces. Rafael shared that digital adoption has three main objectives: 1) Data – we must unlock visibility into the tech stack and into the workflows required to complete a business process through the use of software, 2) Action–take action right on top of the application to automate mundane tasks, allowing end-users to focus on their most valuable work, and 3) Experience – Data and Action will drive the perfect experience for the end-user, no matter where they sit within the organisation.
Trends that drive the next normal
In his article – Focus on the Future: The Dawn of the Next Normal is Brighter Than You Might Think – Rafael discusses the transition from crisis to a new era. Long-term, he sees four significant shifts that will alter corporate conventions.
First is the new paradigm of business continuity planning (BCP). Continuity was typically done keeping in mind a short-term crisis, such as a data leak or an accident. Most businesses did not plan for an event on the scale of COVID-19.
The pandemic has altered the current context of planning, pushing organisations to accept and deal with a new reality. Most leaders, now, agree that BCP must address long-term type possibilities as well, ensuring that a company is agile and adaptable to any situation.
Second, remote capabilities are now an essential component of businesses to remain functional in any situation. When the pandemic began in 2020, most businesses were forced to implement a work-from-home policy, regardless of their readiness. Organisations quickly recognised that their reliance on technology was growing, and to assist their staff, they required the appropriate digital tools.
However, companies will need to examine their technology to enhance communication, onboarding and training, productivity, and employee engagement as the trend toward permanent remote work continues.
Rafael feels that the third major change is in corporate culture and that it will continue to evolve. Across the board, companies acknowledge that employees are their greatest asset. The more the investment and care for employees, the more likely the chances that a company will prosper in the next normal.
Undeniably, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a major and swift impact on the workplace, with companies making significant efforts to build a distinct culture that reflects their views and keeps the employees content, engaged, and feeling supported.
The fourth change, Rafael proposes, is that digital offerings will drive revenue in the future. Industries are entering into a contactless era where all goods and services can be obtained through technological means. To that end, companies will have to invest in digital offerings that are easy for their customers to navigate and their employees to use.
Businesses that cannot serve their customers digitally have suffered greatly and are struggling to recover. The Next Normal involves increasing the digitalisation of operations and the virtualisation of communication.
It is undeniable that technology priorities have shifted, Rafael opines. Companies may have dabbled with “nice to have” technology before COVID-19, but everything that isn’t critical to core business must go now. Budget cuts will affect all firms, requiring the need to make the best software options possible to maximise ROI. Companies that can find the best technology for their purposes will prosper.
Navigating the New and the Next Normal
Digital transformation is made up of several applications that must collaborate and focus on the outcomes rather than the implementing technologies. Rafael explained that most businesses fail to complete their digital transformation journey because they define it primarily by changing many software or platforms and they begin digitising everything simultaneously.
The fundamental changes in digital transformation are in how organisations work and, as a result, how value is added for customers. Rafael recommends companies begin with their desired results, deploy their chosen platform and understand what they want to achieve based on the benchmarks. He added that when considering digital transformation, avoid thinking about systems.
“Consider the bottlenecks, obstacles and financial opportunities. Then define success, act on it, start working on it, and evaluate whether you met your goal,” he advises.
Because there is a possibility of multiple outcomes, an organisation does not have to worry about just one transformation. Think about, as an alternative, the tasks that need to be completed and the aspects of their firm that they wish to alter.
Businesses employ new strategies and processes to stay relevant as technology rapidly evolves. This modification may need to be implemented promptly for the company to reap the benefits and it must constantly adapt, and experiment with new technology.
“We could help them manage the complete cycle, beginning with review and finishing with benchmarks identifying friction and detailing project action, among other things,” Rafael offers confidently.
WalkMe apart, he says, if businesses want to be more successful in their digital transformation, they must focus on outcomes rather than systems implementation.
Without a doubt, WalkMe is a highly successful option. Close to two thousand organisations around the globe utilise the system, from both the public as well as the commercial sector. Product managers and application owners can make use of the software and feature adoption tools, as well as the change management solutions, that this platform provides for internet, desktop, and mobile applications.
The platform aims to empower business leaders to achieve the potential of their people and technology investments, which he considers to be the most valuable assets of an organisation in the digital economy.
The enterprise-class guidance, engagement, insights and automation platform of WalkMe’s Digital Adoption Platform enables businesses to maximise the full value of their digital assets by providing executives with greater visibility into digital usage and making employees more efficient and productive.
“The Next Normal is different. We can’t ever ‘go back’, but we are being offered incredible opportunities for better business processes, better work experiences, and stronger companies and products. Jump on, the time is now,” Rafael advises.
The difficulties faced by businesses in accelerating the development and production of farmed meat and seafood through public-private partnerships are addressed by a multi-institutional research programme by A*STAR and its partners through the CentRe of Innovation for Sustainable banking and Production of Cultivated Meats or CRISP Meats.
The use of animal serum in the manufacturing process and high costs of culture media are key contributors to the challenging commercial viability of bringing cultivated meat and seafood products to the general population.
– Dr Ng Say Kong, Principal Scientist and Co-Director of CRISP Meats
Dr Ng added that projects are made to address the demands of the cultivated meat and seafood business, from the isolation and documentation of cell lines to the development of novel bioprocesses and animal serum-free growing mediums. It also addresses the high cost of animal serum and cell culture media. They use cutting-edge technology, such as multi-omics analysis to determine the metabolic needs of cells from various species to accelerate their growth rate, and artificial intelligence and machine learning modelling (AI/ML) techniques to speed up the media formulation process.
A diverse team of researchers is led by Dr Ng together with Dr Andy Tan, Senior Scientist and Co-Director of CRISP Meats in their collaborative efforts to develop various technologies that can support a profitable value chain for produced meat.
They also collaborate with cultivated meat companies to help them develop a variety of product formats, ranging from mincemeat products like nuggets and patties to whole-cut meat products like steaks and sliced meat parts.
The researchers intend to create a diverse range of cell lines to produce cultivated chicken, pork, and selected seafood, including fish, as these products are commonly used in Asian cuisines and are expected to gain popularity in Asian markets.
Sixteen (16) labs from A*STAR, the Singapore Institute of Technology, and the National University of Singapore are involved in CRISP Meats. The research teams focus on regional seafood, fish, and premium chicken breeds to identify cell lines from food species that cater to Asian palates.
Furthermore, in December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency approved the sale of the world’s first cultivated chicken nuggets, making Singapore the first country in the world to do so. The country is leading efforts to assist industry partners in making cultivated meat safe and affordable. This aligns with Singapore’s “30 by 30” food security national agenda, which aims to meet 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.
The demand for food is rising along with the middle class due to the expanding global population and rising protein intake. Alternatives to conventional protein sources, such as farmed meat and seafood, may be more durable and sustainable.
In addition, cultivated beef uses a lot less space for farming and is less prone to seasonal variation and climate change because it can be produced on demand in a lab. The commercial production of farmed meat and seafood will advance with research into reducing costs and increasing production and processing efficiency.
The Singapore Food Story Grant Call on Future Foods in 2021 funded the CRISP Meats, which was administered by A*STAR in collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore to advance R&D in the cultivated meat and seafood industry. The goal is to attract companies for collaboration to develop integrated platform technologies across the value chain to support and anchor Singapore’s cultivated meat and seafood industry.
From helping new parents keep track of their newborn’s milestones to creating a single state-wide medical record and supporting better patient outcomes and virtual care, the NSW Government is embracing digital solutions to help the people of NSW.
The Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government stated that digital innovations are crucial to aiding customers in keeping track of their health via new solutions like the NSW Health App, the Digital Baby Book and the Single Digital Patient Record are set to further assist the way people manage their health.
The NSW Government is among the world leaders in terms of delivering customer-centric digital outcomes and nowhere is this more important than supporting the health and wellbeing of the State’s residents.
Digital innovations like the NSW Health App will allow customers to access critical health information as well as relevant NSW Health services from the convenience of their phone. It will also help customers consider other healthcare services available in the community.
The Digital Restart Fund (DRF) has already committed $166.7 million to the new Single Digital Patient Record, which will mean clinicians can better support patients and their health no matter where they are in NSW.
Having a truly State-wide clinical information system will improve patient safety and continuity of care, while also reducing the burden on patients having to provide their information repeatedly when accessing NSW Health services.
The Digital Baby Book initiative has been supported with $4.97 million from the DRF and $53.7 million to develop its clinical interface. This will enable busy families with the digital tools needed to stay on track with childhood vaccinations, development information and checks.
An improved Mental Health Access Line is being developed, along with a new virtual care strategy aimed at accessing health and wellbeing support with the tap of a button.
Digital solutions are solving today’s problems by ensuring customers remain well informed and engaged with their healthcare providers. Future initiatives include the eReferral Hub, which will act as an electronic dashboard for referrals allowing consumers to view and be notified of their outpatient appointments, has also received AU$ 3 million in DRF funding.
NSW’s nation-leading work to introduce a digital COVID-safe check-in system made it easier for people to visit venues safely and access essential services during the COVID-19 restrictions, while also supporting NSW Health contract tracers.
Since 2020, almost 200,000 customers opted-in to receive their COVID-19 test results via the Service NSW app, with about 1.9 million results provided. Whether it is a COVID-19 test result, school vaccinations or using digital innovations to foster healthy, resilient, thriving families and communities, the NSW Government is here to make life easier and health services more accessible for everyone in the State.
The Digital Restart Fund is providing seed funding for many eHealth initiatives to support residents across the State. The NSW Government has allocated AU$ 2.1 billion across four years to invest in digital transformation projects through the DRF. The fund is administered by the Department of Customer Service and targets smart, simple technology solutions which create efficiencies for customers across the State.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has received a donation of HK$ 150 million from a Hong Kong-based charitable organisation. The donation will be supported by funding and in-kind contributions at CUHK to establish a development fund valued at HK$ 300 million in the Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) to support research and development in biomedical technology.
Many of the world’s healthcare systems are struggling under the weight of an ageing population. Concurrently, infectious diseases like COVID-19 and the fallout from the pandemic pose imminent threats to global health. To manage these pressing challenges, the strengthening of medical research as well as the acceleration of the translation of scientific discoveries into clinical applications are crucial.
Given this, CU Medicine has launched the Passion for Perfection (P for P) Scheme to accelerate the process of translating laboratory discovery into patient care – often referred to as a “bench to bedside” process, resulting in medical advances and improved human health. The P for P scheme will also strengthen and protect innovations and intellectual property development, and facilitate entrepreneurship at CUHK, leading to the enhancement and improvement of healthcare in Hong Kong.
The Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK noted that biomedical research and biotechnology development represent the driver of discoveries and best practices to improve quality of life, essential to societal well-being and economic prosperity in Hong Kong, the nation, and the world. He added that the gift will empower CUHK to build on its world-class strengths in innovative biomedicine, a key pillar of the 2021-25 Strategic Plan that aims for “Excellence with Purpose and Responsibility”, to break new grounds in frontier biomedical research and translational developments to transform patient care and public health.
Meanwhile, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK stated that through the donation, CU Medicine will launch an innovative “Passion for Perfection” (P for P) scheme, providing funding to support projects that have the potential to develop useful new diagnostic tools or therapeutic approaches.
CU Medicine will also strengthen its existing clinical trial centre to facilitate the clinical evaluation of these new tools and accelerate the translation of basic research outputs into clinical applications, thereby enhancing CUHK’s translational clinical research.
Specifically, two initiatives will be undertaken:
- Development of Prototypes of New Diagnostic or Therapeutic Approaches
A new funding scheme will be launched to support research on novel diagnostic tools that will enable patients to seek early medical treatment and significantly improve their chances of recovery. Research on the development of advanced therapeutic products, particularly those based on novel modalities such as cellular, genetic, and biologic agents, will also be supported. A sustainable innovation ecosystem will be in place to promote the establishment of start-ups such that outstanding research outcomes can be translated and commercialised.
- Enhancement of Infrastructure to Facilitate Clinical Validation of the New Approaches
Clinical evaluation in relevant patient cohorts is a key step to bring new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to routine clinical use. To expedite the “bench to bedside” process, a dedicated team will be established in the existing clinical trial centre, responsible for patient recruitment, clinical evaluation and timely reporting of patient progress, and monitoring of safety and emerging ethical issues. The goal is to increase the speed and efficiency of translating research discoveries to advances in patient care.
The Dean of Medicine at CUHK noted that since its establishment 40 years ago, the faculty has been upholding the core value of patient-centeredness and actively improving the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases through medical research. Their ultimate goal is that their discoveries in research can be practically applied in ways that matter to patients. The donation has greatly enhanced the University’s capability in this translational journey, allowing them to develop world-changing medical technologies for the benefit of patients and the well-being of humankind.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a design tool that roboticists can utilise as a type of automatic formula for success. The team has developed an optimisation code that can be used to simulations of nearly any autonomous robotic system and can be used to automatically determine how and where to modify a system to improve a robot’s performance.
“If a mechanical engineer wanted to design a wind turbine, they could use a 3D CAD tool to design the structure and then a finite-element analysis tool to see if it can withstand certain loads’” said Charles Dawson, an MIT graduate student along with ChuChu Fan, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
The team demonstrated that the tool could rapidly improve the performance of two distinct autonomous systems: one in which a robot traversed a path between two obstacles and another in which two robots worked together to move a heavy box.
The researchers anticipate that the new general-purpose optimiser will accelerate the development of numerous autonomous systems, such as walking robots, self-driving vehicles, soft and dexterous robots, and collaborative robot teams.
Typically, a roboticist optimises an autonomous system by first creating a simulation of the system and its many interdependent subsystems, including its planning, control, perception, and hardware components. Then, it must tune the parameters of each component and run the simulation forward to determine how the system would perform in the given scenario.
A roboticist is only able to determine the optimal combination of components to achieve the desired performance after executing numerous trial-and-error scenarios. Dawson and Fan sought to revolutionise a tedious, overly tailored, and time-consuming procedure.
The researchers created an optimisation framework, or computer code, that can automatically identify modifications that can be made to an existing autonomous system to achieve the desired result.
The core of the code is based on automatic differentiation, or “autodiff,” a programming tool initially used to train neural networks and developed by the machine learning community. Autodiff is a technique that can “evaluate the derivative” or the sensitivity to change of any parameter in a computer programme quickly and efficiently. Using recent advancements in autodiff programming, Dawson and Fan created a general-purpose optimisation tool for autonomous robotic systems.
The team tested their new optimisation tool on two distinct autonomous robotic systems and demonstrated that, compared to conventional optimisation methods, their tool significantly improved the performance of each system in laboratory experiments.
The first system consisted of a wheeled robot tasked with planning a route between two obstacles based on signals from two beacons placed in separate locations. The group endeavoured to determine the optimal placement of the beacons to create a clear path between the obstacles. They discovered that the new optimiser quickly retraced the robot’s simulation and identified the optimal placement of beacons in five minutes, compared to 15 minutes for conventional methods.
The second, more complex system consisted of two-wheeled robots collaborating to move a box toward the desired location. This system’s simulation included many more subsystems and parameters. Nevertheless, the team’s tool identified the necessary steps for the robots to achieve their objective in a 20-times-faster optimisation process than conventional methods.
The general optimiser is now available for download, and the team plans to refine the code so that it can be applied to more complex systems, such as robots designed to interact with and work alongside humans. This study was partially funded by the Defense Science and Technology Agency of Singapore and IBM.
The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated a centre at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) focussing on brain research. This Centre for Brain Research (CBR) will provide evidence-based public health interventions to manage age-related brain disorders. The CBR will carry out vital research to explore appropriate, evidence-based public health interventions to delay the onset of dementia and slow down its progress.
An 800 bedded multispeciality hospital will be developed on the campus of IISc Bengaluru to help integrate science, engineering and medicine at the prestigious institute. It will provide a major push to clinical research in the country and will work toward finding innovative solutions that will help in the improvement of healthcare services in the country. The facility will have advanced facilities for diagnostics, treatment and research. The clinical and surgical departments in the hospital will facilitate comprehensive treatment and healthcare delivery in several specialities
The IISc is a flagship institute in India for cutting-edge research and education, with a dual focus on science and engineering. Keeping with global patterns that combine science, engineering and medicine, IISc plans to establish a Postgraduate Medical School along with a multi-speciality hospital at its Bengaluru campus.
As technology plays an increasingly vital role in patient outcomes, the facility will deploy advanced digital technologies and solutions, such as integrated Electronic Medical Record systems and a comprehensive telemedicine suite with haptics interfaces.
The academic centrepiece of this initiative will be an integrated dual degree MD-PhD programme aimed at creating a new breed of physician-scientists, who will pursue careers in clinical research to develop new treatments and healthcare solutions, driven by a bench-to-bedside philosophy.
The key enabler of this endeavour would be the not-for-profit, 800-bed multi-speciality hospital, catering to the clinical training and research activities of the academic programme. Prof Govindan Rangarajan, Director, Indian Institute of Science was hopeful that the partnership creates a new template for institution building in India, particularly in medical research.
As in many countries across the world, India’s healthcare system, too, has many inequalities in distribution, lacks proper infrastructure and has a dearth of trained clinicians. However, with more than a billion citizens extensively connected to the internet connection and widespread use of smartphones offers distinctive advantages and prospects for innovation of sustainable and scalable healthcare technologies.
Before the pandemic and now driven by it, AI, ML and a plethora of related innovative tech solutions and platforms are driving strong growth and investments both by the public and private sectors.
The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) aims to develop the backbone necessary to support the integrated digital health infrastructure of the country. It will bridge the existing gap amongst different stakeholders of the healthcare ecosystem through digital highways.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the National Health Authority (NHA) under its flagship scheme of Ayushman Bharat has launched a public dashboard for real-time information on the scheme, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
More recently, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has launched an application under the Baal Swaraj portal to help rehabilitate children in street situations (CiSS). Baal Swaraj enables the real-time online tracking and monitoring of children in need of care and protection.
According to a press release, the portal is a first-of-its-kind initiative in India. The CiSS application will be used to receive and log CiSS data from every state and union territory in the country. It will track a child’s rescue and rehabilitation process.