In my 35 years covering the tech market, I have heard from executives—over and over—how their inventions will change the world. And while at times, this is true—the semiconductor, PC, and smartphone come to mind—I have been wondering lately if Silicon Valley should take stronger aim at solving the world’s major healthcare dilemmas.
On cancer, Silicon Valley has been pretty active already. Nvidia, for example, has teamed up with the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and several national laboratories on an initiative to accelerate cancer research. The effort will focus on building an AI framework called CANDLE (Cancer Distributed Learning Environment), which is designed to provide “data scientists around the world with a powerful tool against this disease,” Nvidia says.
“GPU deep learning has given us a new tool to tackle grand challenges that have, up to now, been too complex for even the most powerful supercomputers,” Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “This ambitious collaboration is a giant leap in accelerating one of our nation’s greatest undertakings, the fight against cancer.”
The CANDLE project includes three precision medicine pilot projects that aim to “provide a better understanding of how cancer grows; discover more effective, less toxic therapies than existing ones; and understand key drivers of their effectiveness outside the clinical trial setting, at the population level,” according to a description.
Nvidia is not the only tech company taking aim at cancer. IBM’s Watson division has teamed up with the Department of Veterans Affairs for a public-private partnership to provide veterans battling cancer with a better chance for recovery.
And one of Silicon Valley’s giants, Intel, partnered with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Knight Cancer Institute at OSHU, and other medical groups focused on this terrible disease to create the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, a database that it will use to help advance the research on finding better ways to treat cancer and, ideally, a cure.
My big concern about these efforts is that it appears these databases do not yet talk to each other, largely because of current security and privacy laws regarding data sharing. This has to be dealt with sooner rather than later if any of these companies and partnerships want to find a cure for cancer soon. If it happens, there seems to be a consensus in the health community that we could see some real breakthroughs in finding a cure for cancer in the near future.