News Release

IBM and UC San Diego to pivot AI for Healthy Living collaboration to take on COVID-19 pandemic

San Diego, Calif., April. 13, 2020 -- The University of California San Diego and IBM are building on the existing AI for Healthy Living (AIHL) collaboration in order to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

AI for Healthy Living is a multi-year partnership leveraging a unique, pre-existing cohort of adults in a senior living facility to study healthy aging and the human microbiome as part of IBM's AI Horizons Network of university partners.

“In this challenging time, we are pleased to be leveraging our existing work and momentum with IBM through the AI for Healthy Living collaboration in order to address COVID-19,” said Rob Knight, UC San Diego professor of pediatrics, computer science, and bioengineering and Co-Director of the IBM-UCSD Artificial Intelligence Center for Healthy Living. Knight is also Director of the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation.

“Industry-academic collaborations offer powerful opportunities to address far more difficult challenges than we can take on alone,” said Albert P. Pisano, Dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “Our collaboration with IBM is both agile and deep. The insights we gain from the pivot to COVID-19 are sure to improve our understanding of this pandemic in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”

The pivot on the AI for Healthy Living (AIHL) collaboration will involve applying machine learning techniques to decode the biology behind the SARS-CoV-2 virus as fast as possible by collecting and analyzing samples.

“Through this collaboration with UC San Diego, our scientists will leverage our leading edge AutoAI technologies to rapidly generate, explore, and optimize a breadth of high performance models for COVID-19 specific bioinformatics data,” said Dr. Lisa Amini of IBM. Lisa is the Director of IBM's AI Horizons Network, Lab Director of IBM Research Cambridge, and leads IBM Research's global AI Automation and Scaling research theme.

AutoAI automates data preparation, model development, feature engineering and other key aspects of AI creation.

The team will also use the IBM Functional Genomics Platform and access to sequences of COVID-19 patient samples and healthy individuals to assemble additional molecular data on already-collected samples.

In addition, the researchers will use natural language processing (NLP) to extract insights from COVID-19 related literature and study infection and death rates.

In February 2020, researchers participating in the AI for Healthy Living collaboration published research showing that human age can be predicted based on your microbes. This new understanding of how microbiomes change as humans age sets the stage for future research on the role microbes play in accelerating or decelerating the aging process and influencing age-related diseases.

“There is so much we can potentially learn by folding COVID-19 into our research roadmap. Our goal is to help people live longer as well as healthier and happier,” said Dilip Jeste M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Neurosciences at UC San Diego, and Co-Director of the IBM-UCSD Artificial Intelligence Center for Healthy Living.  

Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering