UK launches £100M AI fund to help treat incurable diseases

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From making variant-proof vaccines to preventing genetic diseases and improving cancer treatments, AI could truly be an invaluable tool in solving some of the biggest challenges in healthcare.

Against this backdrop, the UK aims to harness the tech’s potential and has launched a £100mn fund to accelerate AI deployment in areas where its capabilities could lead to breakthroughs in treating previously incurable diseases.

Specifically, the funding will further support the eight critical healthcare missions outlined by the Life Sciences Vision — the UK’s ambitions for the sector over the next decade.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia are at the top of the list — where AI could enable the development of new precision treatments. For instance, it could help leverage health data in order to identify those at risk of dementia, ensure that the right patients are participating in the right trials, develop effective treatments, and provide insights on how well the therapies work.

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Other key areas include mental health conditions, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, vaccine development, drug discovery, and cancer treatment. The funding will also seek to create solutions that will reduce pressure on the NHS and waiting times for patients.

“Safe, responsible AI will change the game for what it’s possible to do in healthcare, closing the gap between the discovery and application of innovative new therapies, diagnostic tools, and ways of working that will give clinicians more time with their patients,” said Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology.

The scheme aims to bring together the entire healthcare ecosystem, inviting proposals from academia, industry, the NHS, and clinicians. Within the next 18 months, it will invest in testing new technologies addressing the UK’s “greatest” clinical needs. Over the next five years, the government also expects to have transformed mental health research.

While the £100mn investment seems to fall a bit short of the ambition to treat incurable diseases, it will hopefully lead to scientific breakthroughs that could benefit humankind and pave the way for leveraging AI’s power for good.

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