New Institute to Seek AI-Based Solutions to Curbing COVID-19 Pandemic

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A coalition of seven prominent research universities, artificial intelligence (AI) software provider, and Microsoft have launched the Digital Transformation Institute ( DTI) and announced their first research initiative: developing methods to leverage AI to help abate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Institute members include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC. The stated goal of the consortium—jointly managed by UC Berkeley and UIUC—is to leverage AI to “speed the pace of digital transformation in business, government, and society.”

“The Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators, and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” said Thomas M. Siebel, CEO of, in a press release. “We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic. I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.”

  • Applying machine learning and other AI methods to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Genome-specific COVID-19 medical protocols, including precision medicine of host responses
  • Biomedical informatics methods for drug design and repurposing
  • Design and sharing of clinical trials for collecting data on medications, therapies, and interventions
  • Modeling, simulation, and prediction for understanding COVID-19 propagation and efficacy of interventions
  • Logistics and optimization analysis for design of public health strategies and interventions
  • Rigorous approaches to designing sampling and testing strategies
  • Data analytics for COVID-19 research harnessing private and sensitive data
  • Improving societal resilience in response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Broader efforts in biomedicine, infectious disease modeling, response logistics and optimization, public health efforts, tools, and methodologies around the containment of rising infectious diseases and response to pandemics, so as to be better prepared for future infectious diseases
  • The first call for proposals is open now, with a deadline of May 1, 2020. Researchers are invited to learn more about DTI and how to submit their proposals for consideration at Selected proposals will be announced by June 1, 2020.

“At UC Berkeley, we are thrilled to help co-lead this important endeavor to establish and advance the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT, and cloud computing,” said Carol Christ, Chancellor, UC Berkeley. “We believe this Institute has the potential to make tremendous contributions by including ethics, new business models, and public policy to the technologies for transforming societal scale systems globally.”

In addition to cash awards, DTI recipients will be provided with significant cloud computing, supercomputing, data access, and AI software resources and technical support provided by Microsoft and This will include unlimited use of the C3 AI Suite and access to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at UIUC.

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