Artificial intelligence is transforming our ability to detect disease and even design drugs, as mankind learns to let machines learn to crunch the numbers for us, as Stuart McDill reports.
Diagnosing cancer is a slow and laborious process. Here researchers at University Hospital Zurich painstakingly make up biopsy slides - up to 50 for each patient - for the pathologist to examine for signs of prostate cancer. A pathologist takes around an hour and a half per patient - a task IBMs Watson supercomputer is now doing in fractions of a second. (SOUNDBITE)(English) DR PETER WILD, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL ZURICH "If the pathologist becomes faster by using such a system I think it will pay off. Because my time is also worth something. If I sit here one and a half hours looking at slides, screening all these slides, instead of just signing out the two or three positive ones, and taking into account that there may be a .1 error rate, percent error rate. this will pay off, because I can do in one and a half hours at the end five patients." The hospital's archive of biopsy images is being slowly fed into Watson - a process that will take years. But maybe one day pathologists won't have to view slides through a microscope at all. Diagnosis is not the only area benefiting from AI. The technology is helping this University of Sheffield team design a new drug that could slow down the progress of motor neurone disease. A system built by British start-up BenevolentAI is identifying new areas for further exploration far faster than a person could ever hope to. SOUNDBITE (English) DR RICHARD MEAD, SITRAN, UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD "Benevolent basically uses their artificial intelligence system to scan the whole medical and biomedical literature. It's not really easy for us to stay on top of millions of publications that come out every year. So they can interrogate that information, using artificial intelligence and come up with ideas for new drugs that might be used in a completely different disease, but may be applicable on motor neurone disease. So that's the real benefit in their system, the kind of novel ideas that they come up with." BenevolentAI has raised one hundred million dollars in investment to develop its AI system, and help revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry.