🏥 Healthcare and life science
of scientific publications, patents, company reports for 21 major pharmaceutical companies between 2014 and 2019 concluded that the industry is in an “early mature” phase of using AI in their businesses. Novartis came in first with 20 internal AI projects and 8 cooperations with startups (AstraZeneca came in #2), while Gilead came in last with 1 internal AI project and 1 startup collaboration. Overall, the authors conclude that “AI has not yet contributed to a sufficient extent to R&D efficiency, effectiveness, or productivity in big pharma.”
Even so, there are an increasing number of positive examples. This includes Reverie Labs, which signed
a multi-target collaboration agreement focused on kinase inhibitors with Roche and Genentech. The startup generates hit candidates by factoring in drug potency, selectivity and chemical properties. In the UK, Exscientia had signed a €250M deal with Sanofi in May 2017 to evaluate over one thousand combinations of immunological drug targets for potential synergistic effects with bispecific small molecules. Just over two years later, Sanofi exercised
their option over a first-in-class small molecule that Exscientia discovered. Win!
With more open datasets and competition, progress will only accelerate. For example, NYU Langone Medical Center and Facebook AI released
the fastMRI dataset that includes thousands of brain and knee MRIs with the goal of speeding up this imaging modality.
For drug discovery, The Broad Institute and 12 other academic and industrial partners launched
The Joint Undertaking in Morphological Profiling with Cell Painting dataset. The data is of more than 1 billion cells responding to over 140,000 small molecules and genetic perturbations. Another all-important ImageNet for Biology project.
🌎 The (geo)politics of AI
The UK government pulled a 180-degree policy stance change
on Huawei’s 5G equipment. Despite approving its limited use in January 2020, Johnson’s government has now banned Huawei as a supplier. Many point to mounting pressure from the Trump administration, which has significantly escalated its trade war with China over the summer.
Trump also pulled a huge move to escalate US-China tensions by mandating
that ByteDance sell its US operations for TikTok to a US technology company, most likely Microsoft. The President cited data privacy concerns over content generated and consumed by US users being sent to China. This is a huge blow for the wildly successful app that is well known for making use of AI for rapidly hooking users into their content. More to follow soon…
On the facial recognition policy front, Clearview AI, which brands its “search engine for faces”, has been pushed
out of the Canadian market following an investigation. The company, which licenses its technology to 600 law enforcement agencies, is also subject to a joint probe
from the UK and Australian information commissions over how it scraped enormous amounts of private photos of people on social networks. Large enterprises including Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM have either paused or stopped their facial recognition programs.
🚗 Autonomous everything
AV companies are maturing their approaches to building reliable autonomous services. Their efforts range from teleoperations to new hardware sensors to better capture the environment and larger datasets. For example, Voyage launched their in-house teleoperations service
, which serves to monitor their AV fleet rides, provide human support for deciding how to drive tricky scenarios and remote controlling the vehicle. Lyft Level 5 are kicking off
a Kaggle competition focused on motion prediction from 1,000 hours of traffic agent data. Aurora debuted
their FirstLight lidar solution that came out of their acquisition of Blackmore last year. They’re excited about this lidar because it uses frequency modulated continuous wave technology to simultaneously measure both the location and velocity of surrounding objects instead of location alone. The company also expanded testing
On the topic of lidar, the ever popular special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) method of taking companies public has made its way to Velodyne. The company entered into a reverse merger agreement
with the blank cheque acquisition company Graf Industries. The deal will result in a publicly-listed Velodyne worth approximately $1.6B. The business generated over 80% of its $106M in 2019 revenue from hardware sales and pitched a major shift towards generating revenue from software (autopilot and collision avoidance) and a yet to be released smaller Lidar.
In China, DiDi’s independent self-driving company launched
its robotaxi service in Shanghai along a 6 kilometer loop in what some call a world first. This comes a few weeks after DiDi closed
a $500M investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.
The big news in chip land is the rumored
acquisition of ARM by NVIDIA for over $32B. ARM has struggled to grow under SoftBank’s ownership despite throwing profitability out the window. Its revenues have grown from $1.2B in 2016 to $1.9B while NVIDIA’s revenue has tripled over the same period. With NVIDIA’s meteoric rise in enterprise value, paying in shares would prove rather inexpensive. The challenge with this deal is that ARM’s business model is predicated on selling chip designs to anyone in the industry, i.e. competitors of NVIDIA. It would also be another lost opportunity to return ARM as an independent UK company.
Graphcore (an Air Street Capital portfolio company) released
their second generation Intelligence Processing Unit. The chip packs 59.4 billion transistors and almost 1,500 cores on a single wafer. The system provides more processing power, more memory, and built-in scalability for handling extremely large parallel processing workloads. This Mk2 chip trains a BERT-Large model 9.3x faster than the Mk1 chip. More details here
Finally, MLPerf results have been released. It’s a benchmarking competition where AI hardware vendors run a variety of models on a variety of tasks to see who is best. This time around, both Google
showed several-fold improvements with their latest respective hardware releases.