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AWS debuts next phase of $20m push to provide cloud tools to Covid-19 research teams

With the pandemic now into its second year, public cloud giant AWS has unveiled the next phase of its bid to provide research organisations with access to the cloud resources they need to fight back against coronavirus

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has unveiled the next phase of its $20m bid to provide organisations involved in diagnostics research and development with the cloud services they need to join the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

First announced in March 2020, the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative has so far helped 87 organisations – including non-profits and research institutions – in 17 countries to access the cloud resources they need to support the delivery of a wide range of coronavirus-related diagnostic projects.

These include a project run through the Stanford University School of Medicine that resulted in the creation of a smartwatch app that can pick up on signs that a person’s immune system is fighting off a potential Covid-19 infection.

It does this by employing an algorithm that detects changes in the person’s resting heart rate and step count, and its creators claim it can be used to pinpoint affected individuals 10 days before they start showing symptoms of the disease.

“We have awarded $8m supporting a range of projects, including molecular tests for antibodies, antigens and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus,” AWS said in a statement.

The cloud giant said it is now preparing to broaden the scope of the initiative beyond the confines of diagnostic projects such as the Stanford effort, to fund the delivery of cloud resources to organisations involved in research relating to early disease detection, public health genomics, and finding ways to better understand how the disease affects people over time. It will also support projects pertaining to other infectious diseases.

This broadening in scope coincides with a pledge from AWS to pay out the remaining $12m it committed to the initiative back in March 2020 over the course of this year, the company confirmed.  

“AWS will prioritise Covid-19 projects, but will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases,” it said. “We will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority consideration given to applications received before 31 July 2021.”

Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon’s Covid-19 Response, added: “We have seen transformative innovations in how we diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high-quality and direct-to-consumer tests.

“These changes will continue to evolve and improve our ability to respond to future outbreaks. We have already seen inspirational results from the Diagnostic Development Initiative, and we look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organisations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks.”

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