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Alphabet-owned DeepMind is Funding NHS Research

Alphabet-owned Artificial Intelligence laboratory DeepMind is bankrolling NHS research, Business Insider has revealed.

The London-based company has provided Moorfields Eye Hospital’s trust with £110,000 in funding since July 2016— when the two organisations kick-started a partnership to test DeepMind’s new technology to diagnose eye diseases.

The collaboration had already sparked controversy, as over one million patient data were processed by DeepMind’s algorithm: this raised questions on patients’ consent to data treatment and the opportunity of  sharing clinical data with a private technology corporation.

Business Insider, which obtained the information under an FOI request, says that DeepMind’s payment went to cover “the costs incurred by the [Moorfields Eye Hospital’s] Trust”, rather than being a fee to access patient data.  The hospital did not pay any money to DeepMind.

A spokesperson for DeepMind Health told Business Insider:

“DeepMind has reimbursed Moorfields for the direct costs they have incurred de-personalising and manually segmenting eye scans prior to transfer. Our research together looks at whether AI techniques can reduce the time between a patient’s scan and their diagnosis by an expert eye specialist,” a DeepMind Health spokesman told the website.

“We hope this work will help doctors faster analyse the 3,000 eye scans Moorfields carries out every week. Speeding up the time between test and diagnosis could play a critical role in treating serious eye conditions before patients are left with long-term health conditions or blindness.”

Moorfields also released a statement on the matter: “We are working with DeepMind on a research project to apply machine learning to one million anonymised eye scans to explore whether this could lead to earlier detection of common eye diseases.”

“Where administrative or clinical time is spent on the research project by Moorfields staff, DeepMind ensures that this time is appropriately reimbursed to the trust. All payments received from DeepMind are to recover costs that have been incurred by Moorfields during the delivery of this collaborative research project.”


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