Microsoft (Microsoft Stock Quote, Chart, News NASDAQ:MSFT) chief technology officer Kevin Scott says time is of the essence in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and AI-powered studies are playing a role in the search for a vaccine.
One of the few tech names to be doing fairly well during the current downturn, Microsoft has seen a dramatic upswing in use of its cloud services and Microsoft Teams platform as more people around the world are forced to stay at home and work remotely in response to the pandemic.
The tech giant reported a 775 per cent spike in Teams usage in Italy, for example, where the government has imposed shutdowns of virtually every corner of commerce.
“So far, everything's been holding up really well but it is unusual time and we're seeing
so much growth coming all at once in some of our core collaboration and communication products that we're building,” said Scott, who appeared on Bloomberg News Monday.
Scott said Microsoft’s partnerships with biotech firms has been a focus during the pandemic.
“We’re doing interesting work with a company called Adaptive Biotechnologies where we've been working to build up a mapping of the immune system and diseases. We've worked with adaptive to use AI and machine learning to hopefully bring a test to market, that will determine whether or not there are COVID-19 antibodies in sample of blood, which will help us better map out the progression of the virus and the population,” Scott said.
Researchers worldwide are racing to bring potential vaccines to clinical testing, which experts say could mean a year or more before a viable product becomes available. Scott says the search can be aided by AI-powered simulations.
“We’re using some of the same supercomputing capacity that we have been previously using for training deep neural networks for natural language processing to run molecular simulations to try to identify potential therapies for COVID-19 by better understanding the structure of the SARS Cov-2 spike protein,” Scott said.
Scott said the level of collaboration in the biotech field is one impressive example of the reach of AI both now and going forward. Scott is the author of a new book called Reprogramming the American Dream in which he argues that artificial intelligence should be seen as an equalizing influence in society, a tool not just for Silicon Valley but for those in rural and middle America too. He said the economic and social upheaval caused by the pandemic could point to a way forward for technology.
what I'm hoping that we do on the other side of this is not just have a surge of investment in the bio sciences biotechnology and in AI in a way that will help us have cheap high quality ubiquitous healthcare in the future but we'll also address some of these basic issues like broadband connectivity that really need to get sorted out before we can have a fully inclusive digital future for everyone,” Scott said.