Department of Engineering / News / Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine announces its official launch

Department of Engineering

Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine announces its official launch

Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine announces its official launch

The University of Cambridge has announced a five-year agreement with AstraZeneca and GSK to fund the Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine (CCAIM). For the five-year duration, AstraZeneca and GSK will support five new PhD studentships per year. This programme will enable the best and brightest young minds in machine learning and bioscience to partner with leaders in industry and academia, wherever they may be in the world.

CCAIM is designed to break down the barriers between machine learning and medical science, to create a unique forum in which we can work together to truly understand the challenges, formalise the problems, and develop practical solutions that can be readily implemented in healthcare.

Professor Mihaela van der Schaar

CCAIM has been set up as a cutting-edge research group. Its faculty of 10 University of Cambridge researchers – in addition to world-class PhD students, currently being recruited – have united to develop AI and machine learning (ML) technologies aiming to transform clinical trials, personalised medicine and biomedical discovery.

The centre’s Director is Professor Mihaela van der Schaar, a world leading researcher in ML, and the Co-Director is researcher-clinician Professor Andres Floto. The faculty also includes Dr Sarah Teichmann FMedSci FRS, Head of Cellular Genetics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and founder and principal leader of the Human Cell Atlas international consortium.

Successfully bridging the gap between the disparate and complex fields of AI and medicine requires building from both sides simultaneously. CCAIM brings together a diverse coalition of leading Cambridge scientists and clinicians, with expertise in machine learning, engineering, mathematics, medicine, computer science, genetics, computational biology, biostatistics, clinical research, healthcare policy and more.

These multi-disciplinary experts from the University of Cambridge will work in close collaboration with scientists and leaders from AstraZeneca and GSK to identify critical challenges facing drug discovery and development that have the potential to be solved through cutting-edge academic research.

The Centre’s research output and the implementation of its ML tools could be transformational not only for the pharmaceutical industry – including in clinical trials and drug discovery – but also for the clinical delivery of healthcare to patients. The CCAIM team already has deep research links with the NHS, and four of the Centre’s members are NHS doctors.

Professor van der Schaar said: “Machine learning has the potential to truly revolutionise the delivery of healthcare, to the great benefit of patients, clinicians and the wider medical ecosystem. But to realise this potential requires true and deep cross-disciplinary understanding – a great challenge because we speak different languages. CCAIM is designed to break down the barriers between machine learning and medical science, to create a unique forum in which we can work together to truly understand the challenges, formalise the problems, and develop practical solutions that can be readily implemented in healthcare.”

Professor Andre Floto said: “We are thrilled that the CCAIM is taking off. From tackling the immediate threats of COVID-19, to the long-term transformation of healthcare systems, our network of experts and incoming PhD students will bring next-level AI to bear on the most pressing medical issues of our time.”

Professor Andy Neely OBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, University of Cambridge, said: “The CCAIM is a terrific and timely venture that builds on the strong relationships between the University of Cambridge and global leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, AstraZeneca and GSK. The depth and diversity of the CCAIM faculty’s expertise means it is uniquely positioned to deliver and accelerate the breakthroughs in medical science and healthcare that AI has long promised. I anticipate the Centre’s impact will be nothing less than transformational.”

Jim Weatherall, Vice President, Data Science & AI, R&D, AstraZeneca, said: “We know the best science doesn’t happen in isolation which is why collaboration is essential to the way we work. This new centre combines world class academia with real-world industrial challenges and will help to develop cutting-edge AI to potentially transform the way we discover and develop medicines.”

Kim Branson, Senior Vice President and Global Head of AI/ML, GSK, said: “The new CCAIM will recruit and train the next generation of practitioners at the intersection of AI, industry and academia. The work of this institute will be critical to translating AI methods from theory to practice, so that we can keep improving our therapeutic discovery efforts and so that together we can make a tangible impact on patients, from diagnosis, to treatment and beyond.”


Professor Mihaela van der Schaar, CCAIM Director

Mihaela van der Schaar is John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Medicine at the University of Cambridge, where she directs the Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine and heads up the van der Schaar Lab. In 2019, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), identified Professor van der Shaar as the most-cited female AI researcher in the UK. In 2020, she was among the top 10 authors not only at ICML, but also at NeurIPS, two of the world’s most prestigious machine learning conferences. Professor van der Schaar is also a Turing Faculty Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute in London, a Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA and an IEEE Fellow. A fuller biography, including information on Professor van der Schaar’s many awards and patents, is available here.

Professor Andres Floto, CCAIM Co-Director

Andres Floto is a Professor of Respiratory Biology at the University of Cambridge, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, and Research Director of the Cambridge Centre for Lung Infection at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. Clinically, he specialises in the treatment of patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), non-CF bronchiectasis, and infections with nontuberculous mycobacteria.

Professor Floto research explores how immune cells interact with bacteria, how intracellular killing and inflammation are regulated and sometimes subverted during infection, how population-level whole-genome sequencing can be used to reveal biology of bacterial infection, and how therapeutic enhancement of cell-autonomous immunity may provide novel strategies to treat multi-drug-resistant pathogens.

Dr James Weatherall, Vice President, Data Science & AI, R&D, AstraZeneca

Since joining AstraZeneca in 2007, Dr Weatherall has held diverse roles focused on driving the application of data science, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and related approaches to unlock the full potential of data – transforming the way medicines are discovered and developed and making a difference to patients’ lives. Dr Weatherall is an Honorary Reader in Computer Science at the University of Manchester and Vice-Chair of the Data Science Section at the Royal Statistical Society. He has contributed to and published in diverse fields such as data visualisation, cryptography, text mining, machine learning and health data science.

Dr Kim Branson, Senior Vice President and Global Head of AI/ML, GSK

Dr Kim Branson leads all GSK’s AI/ML initiatives and projects. Dr Branson has been involved in large scale machine learning and medical informatics initiatives for more than 15 years, over a range of ventures from computational drug design to disease risk prediction. 

Dr Branson received degrees from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. 

This article first appeared on the CCAIM website.

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