GenAI will speed up drug discovery, boost healthcare in India: Top AWS executive

New Delhi: Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform drug discovery and healthcare delivery in a country like India which has top-level medical experts with the right kind of experience in this new-age technology, a top Amazon Web Services (AWS) executive has said.

Dr Rowland Illing, Director and Chief Medical Officer, International Public Sector Health, AWS, told IANS that they are delighted to support the Indian Government and the Union Health Ministry in building next-generation healthcare solutions for the population.

“There is an incredible opportunity because India is such a great technology-based country with some real experts at great health-tech companies. We have a great team working in India with the Indian Government and at the state level as well. GenAI with Cloud has the true potential to transform the healthcare industry in India,” Dr Illing said on the sidelines of the AWS re:Invent conference in the US last week.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw the rapid emergence of AI and Machine Learning (ML) in providing timely and quality healthcare for millions. Healthtech startup created a niche for itself with advanced technology that reads and interprets medical images like X-rays, CTs, and ultrasounds in less than a minute, making equitable and high-quality healthcare a reality across the globe.

“They have built some amazing diagnostic AI tools like the one for chest X-rays looking at detecting tuberculosis (TB). Users can upload X-ray imaging into the Cloud, have it analysed and the local healthcare provider can then either start treatment or may not need treatment based upon the AI output,” said Dr Illing.

According to him, this is all about the democratisation of GenAI and India is a great place for this as there is “a great ambition within the government to accelerate healthcare and to democratise access by using Cloud which is the only way to scale.”

AWS, the Cloud arm of Amazon, in September announced that the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has chosen it as its preferred Cloud provider to accelerate its genome sequencing research projects.

CCMB performed short tandem repeat (STR) genotyping — an analysis to determine a person’s DNA profile — on 3,200 samples from the ‘1000 Genomes Project’, an international research effort to establish a detailed catalogue of human genetic variation.

Using services such as Amazon Aurora, Amazon EC2, EC2 Auto Scaling, Amazon S3, and AWS Batch, CCMB was able to reduce the time taken for research analysis by up to 98 per cent — from 550 days to just nine days on average.

In another project, CCMB has started analysing breast cancer samples to identify molecular signatures of triple negative breast cancers among the Indian population. Using CPU and GPU-accelerated computing on AWS, CCMB brought down the time taken of analysis per sample by 50 to 70 per cent.

Dr Illing told IANS that genomics is the biggest healthcare use case for Cloud at the moment because organisations that use genomics or genetics are unable to just manage that kind of infrastructure required in order to both store and compute on massive datasets.

“CCMB started its genome sequencing research on AWS just now and that has been a great partnership. India will be one of the powerhouses of genomics as a result,” he added.

“Generative AI will be an accelerator to global healthcare. Using AWS Cloud, the companies can build solutions in a highly-controlled and secure manner, especially in India,” said Dr Illing.

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