Microsoft, Adaptive Biotech use AI to decode immune system

July 15, 2019

Microsoft Corp. has joined forces with a Seattle biotechnology firm to use Artificial Intelligence software to help diagnose and treat immune system diseases using a simple blood test.

The partnership combines Adaptive Biotechnologies Inc.’s sequencing technologies with Microsoft’s research and large-scale machine learning and Azure cloud computing capabilities. The goal is to create a universal diagnostic tool – all from a simple blood test.

Last year, Microsoft made a US $45 million investment in Adaptive with a view to developing a partnership that aims to map the genetics of the human immune system, or immunome. The focus is on detecting cancers and other diseases in their earliest stage. If detected early, these diseases can be treated more effectively.

In January, the companies said work has begun starting with diagnosing Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and Lyme disease.

Microsoft executive Peter Lee, speaking at a Microsoft conference for healthcare developers recently, said the technology could be commercially available within a few years.  As reported by Geekwire,  Lee said the development sounded a lot like science fiction when he first heard about it. As a Star Trek fan, he likened it to a device in the 1960s series called a Tricorder, a handheld medical diagnostic tool. Lee said he is convinced it is a viable technology.

 Adaptive Biotechnologies raised US $345 million in a Nasdaq IPO July 1, 2019. Roche’s US arm Genentech has also made an investment in the company.

Microsoft’s investment in Adaptive is another example of how new technologies are transforming healthcare. These innovations are creating new ways of diagnosing illnesses, and helping doctors provide better treatment options.   

Microsoft is a component of the Harvest Tech Achievers Growth & Income ETF  (TSX: HTA, HTA.U) The ETF is an actively managed  portfolio of 20 global technology leaders with an average market capitalization off CAD $342 billion as of June 30, 2019.

The ETF is also RRSP, RRIF, RESP and TFSA eligible and monthly distributions are available as cash or as DRIPs.

The Harvest Portfolio Group of ETFs also includes the Healthcare Leaders Income Fund ETF (TSX: HHL; HHL.U). As of June 30, 2019, HHL held 20 of the largest global healthcare companies including biotech leaders. The ETF had an average market capitalization of CAD $155 billion.

 The holdings have an average dividend yield of 2.13% and a 5-year return on equity of 19.85%.

The management fee is 0.85% and distributions are paid monthly (cash or DRIP).

For more on Harvest Portfolio Group investment products, click here.

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