Editorial

PM calls on AI to help British cancer sufferers

As many 22,000 people could be be saved from dying every year by smart use of the tech, May promises, as she issues a set of ‘Grand Challenges’ to British business leaders and Universities

Posted 22 May 2018 by

Prime Minister Theresa May has issued an “AI and Data Grand Challenge” which will see the United Kingdom use data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia by 2030.

Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths, the PM said yesterday as part of a speech on her government’s Industrial Strategy.

“The development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease,” she added.

In cancer, our ambition is that within 15 years we will be able to diagnose at a much earlier stage the lung, bowel, prostate or ovarian cancer of at least 50,000 more people a year, she stated – which could mean every year 22,000 fewer people will die within five years of their diagnosis compared to today.

To do this, she promised, “We will work with industry and the medical research community to announce specific ambitions in a range of other disease areas over the coming weeks and months.”

Achieving this mission will not only save thousands of lives, she went on to say – it will be great for the economy, too, as she thinks it will incubate “a whole new industry around AI-in-healthcare” which could lead to the creation of high-skilled science jobs across the country, drawing on existing centres of excellence in places like Edinburgh, Oxford and Leeds “and helping to grow new ones”.

These health AI ambitions are actually one of a set of Industrial Strategy ‘Grand Challenges’ for UK business and academia the PM issued yesterday.

These include better ageing, put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040, use of new technologies and modern construction practices to at least halve the energy usage of new buildings by 2030,

“We cannot predict the future or guess what technological or scientific breakthroughs might lie just around the corner,” May noted.

“But we can observe the long-term trends that are shaping change in our world today and which will drive and demand innovation in the years ahead.

“We know that artificial intelligence and the big data revolution is transforming business models and employment practices across all sectors of the economy – especially in services, which are so important to our country.”