Intel boosts COVID-19 aid, research to $60 M

Intel processors power the Sickbay platform from Medical Informatics that has been used in a Texas hospital to monitor COVID-19 patients. The platform allows sensors to be attached to patients in ordinary hospital beds to convert to virtual ICU beds, keeping nurses safe. (Intel)

Intel increased its giving to $60 million on Tuesday to help with COVID-19 relief and the aftermath, including research to help prepare for future pandemics.

“Intel is committed to accelerating access to technology that can combat the current pandemic and enable new technology and scientific discovery that better prepares society for future crises,” Intel CEO Bob Swan said in a statement.

Much of Intel’s approach, at a sum of $40 million, includes technology to help accelerate access to patient care and scientific research and to improve online learning for students.  Another $10 million goes to an innovation fund for new technologies for use with employee-led relief projects and partnerships with outside organizations.

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Intel previously designated another $10 million in donations for global COVID-19 relief funneled to local communities and relief organizations and to purchase 1 million masks, gloves and personal protective gear to healthcare workers. https://newsroom.intel.com/news/intel-donates-more-than-1-million-protective-items-healthcare-workers-coronavirus-fight/#gs.35rizb

The $40 million portion, called the Response and Readiness Initiative, is designed to provide funding to accelerate advances in diagnosis, treatment and vaccine development with Intel customers and partners, which Intel did not name.  Intel and those groups will use artificial intelligence, high performance computing and edge-to-cloud service delivery technology.

That initiative “will also support the creation of industry alliances that accelerate worldwide capacity, capability and policy to respond to this and future pandemics,” Intel said in a statement.

Intel’s efforts in this vein are another in a patchwork of virus research efforts by large corporations, many focused on AI development work, that have emerged in recent weeks.  GPU-maker Nvidia announced Monday it was joining IBM, AMD, Microsoft and government and university research organizations in the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium that was spearheaded by IBM, the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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C3.ai, founded by industry veteran Tom Siebel, on April 1 said it was making a unified image of virus data publicly available at no cost. The assembly of that data was done in less than three weeks with the capabilities of faster processing enabled by AI, he said.

As part of Intel’s online learning initiative, an Intel spokeswoman said the company will donate $5 million to Firstbook.org for 10,000 Internet-ready laptops and Chromebooks to be used in underserved communities.  Firstbook said on its website that because COVID-19 has shut down schools, it is delivering 8 million books donated by publishers to children who don’t have internet access or home libraries to keep learning.

Intel’s $10 million innovation fund supports requests made by external partners and employee-led relief projects including Medical Informatics Corp’s Sickbay platform, which runs on Intel Xeon and Atom processors and Intel’s Ethernet Server Adapter and SSD DC S4510.

 Sickbay is a patient monitoring and predictive analytics platform which has been deployed recently at Houston Methodist Hospital for its virtual Intensive Care Unit and has been used to monitor COVID-19 patients.  The system can turn regular hospital beds into virtual ICU beds quickly, Intel said, providing vital information to nurses and doctors without risking their exposure in ICU rooms.

Sickbay continuously captures and processes data from different biomedical devices connected to a patient.  The results can be viewed graphically by care teams well away from the ICU to reduce risk.  Sickbay allows hospitals to create their own analytics through its development tools.

Intel is also working with Dyson and medical consultancy TTP to provide Field Programmable Gate Arrays for CoVent, a new ventilator designed for the UK.  It is bed-mounted and pending regulatory approval, the company said.

In India, Intel is working with government researchers in to deploy its client and server gear for faster, low-cost COVID-19 testing and genome sequencing that relies on AI risk stratification.  A separate effort with India’s software companies is designed to predict outbreaks and improve medical care.

Intel said its technology underpins many critical products and services already used in healthcare. “We hope that by harnessing our expertise, resources, technology and talents, we can help save and enrich lives,” the company said.

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