While movies and television often focus on the negative possibilities of a world driven by artificial intelligence, trading in traditional relationships for life-like robots or evil machines destroying the planet, many technologists today are focused on the positive and building smart cognitive systems that enhance and improve the lives of people all over the globe.
Healthcare is one industry betting big on AI and we are seeing rapid adoption of the technology to address a diverse array of problems patients, doctors and healthcare organizations face. Driven by some of the world’s most influential companies and research institutions including IBM, Google, Microsoft, University of Southern California and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, healthcare applications rooted in AI and machine learning are advancing drug discovery, improving testing and diagnostics and developing treatment options for some of humanity’s worst diseases.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1,688,780 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year and more than 600,000 people will perish from the disease. While the numbers are staggering, research shows they are on the decline – a major contributing factor being early detection.
This begs the question, what if there was consistent way to detect cancer at its earliest stages, at the time when it is usually most treatable and the prognosis is best? For many, that would be a dream come true and one well-known Silicon Valley-based product builder is working to make this a reality.
Anand Prakash recently founded GrailAI, a startup dedicated to developing new data algorithms to diagnose cancer in the early stages, while patients’ odds for a full recovery are best. India-born Prakash has been interested in the idea of leveraging technology to improve healthcare and patient outcomes for more than a decade, but his mission accelerated when his uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
While there are many individuals and institutions dedicated to the fight to cure cancer, Prakash is approaching the issue from a unique angle, leveraging his experience in developing advanced machine learning techniques to achieve early-stage detection. “We’re using data from wearables, DNA and other available information to identify patterns we can then compare with predictive symptoms of cancer,” said Prakash. “Others are using lab tests and imagery as part of their research, but usually these aren’t available until a later stage.” Prakash hopes his work will complement the innovations others in the field are advancing.
Prakash is not your ordinary engineer; he has a storied history of building, running and selling successful ventures, all of which position him strongly to make a significant impact on the war against cancer. In 2005, he developed SMSGupShup, a social network with more than 35 million users. He then moved from India to Silicon Valley to help manage LinkedIn’s mobile product. Still in California, he founded DropTalk in September 2012, which he sold to DropBox in April 2014. After spending some time as CTO for Verizon subsidiary Catalyst Foundry, Prakash decided to re-focus his energy into his passion project, GrailAI, with the hope of helping other families avoid the devastation that comes with losing a loved one to cancer. “Most people don’t feel the weight of cancer until someone close to them is affected,” said Prakash. “We are trying to find it early to give people a much better chance at life.”
Prakash’s GrailAI technology is expected to be ready for clinical studies and implementation in late 2018.