- Microsoft is engaged in numerous health research projects in a mutually beneficial relationship with the medical community, according to an article on the Microsoft website.
- One Microsoft project is using machine learning to sift through massive amounts of data on cancer biology to make precision medicine more possible. Another is a cloud-based tool that creates computerized models of biological processes associated with cancer progression.
- Microsoft’s excursion into medical research is just one of many made in the recent past by technology companies not typically associated with healthcare.
Microsoft, mocked in the infamous Mac vs. PC commercials less than a decade ago for committing unwaveringly to a suite of core products that stayed the same as other technologies advanced, seems pretty forward-thinking these days, at least when it comes to health. The company is using its resources to explore a range of advanced health technologies.
Medical researchers are increasingly turning to experts in computer science to help develop new treatments, therapies, and interventions. Microsoft, which has an extensive history in software development and has recently invested heavily in cloud computing capabilities, can offer a lot in terms of assistance.
Microsoft spent $12 billion, or 13% of its total revenue, on research and development last year. It seems a significant chunk of that is being used to investigate solutions to healthcare problems. Microsoft isn’t the only technology that has begun exploring healthcare in recent years. For instance, nearly everyone has at least heard about IBM Watson Health. How Apple has been dipping its toes into healthcare's waters, the tech giant recently sent shock waves in the startup world by purchasing the personal health record upstart Gliimpse.
Motivations for technology companies not typically associated with healthcare to engage in these kinds of initiatives aren’t purely benevolent. They stand to make a lot of money. Last year, Factset predicted health technology would be the most profitable market in 2016, according to a December 2015 Forbes article.
By spreading money around, Microsoft can hope that one of its projects is a success that turns a profit to cover its investment. For instance, one Microsoft project is exploring the development of programmable cells. It seems like a long shot, but Jeannette Wing, a Microsoft vice president in charge of research labs, said, “If the computers of the future are not going to be made just in silicon but might be made in living matter, it behooves us to make sure we understand what it means to program on those computers.”