Google donates $8.5M to fund coronavirus AI, analytics projects
Google.org, Google’s philanthropy arm, has donated a collective $8.5 million in grants to support 31 organizations’ COVID-19 response efforts, the tech giant said Thursday.
It’s part of a $100 million commitment to COVID-19 relief that Google.org announced in May.
The latest $8.5 million in funding goes to projects at academic institutions and not-for-profits that apply artificial intelligence and data analytics to better understand four areas related to COVID-19: monitoring the spread of the disease, addressing health equity and secondary effects of the disease, slowing transmission, and supporting healthcare workers.
That includes projects like Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s research into COVID-19’s effect on patients seeking routine and preventive care; Florida A&M University and Shaw University’s research on how COVID-19 has affected racial minorities; and University College London’s work to model COVID-19’s spread using aggregated search trends data.
Google.org did not share the funding amount each of the 31 organizations received.
“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations,” wrote Mollie Javerbaum, program manager at Google.org, and Meghan Houghton, university relations program manager at Google Research, in a blog post Thursday. “We’re supporting efforts to map the social and environmental drivers of COVID-19 impact.”
One of the projects Google.org highlighted in its latest announcement, an effort to develop a COVID-19 health equity map of the U.S., was initially awarded in May.
Google.org had awarded the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine a $1 million grant to create a database with information about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths as part of that project, with an option to drill down into those cases by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other demographic factors.
The project aims to understand why black and Latino populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, so that policymakers can better target resources to those populations. A team of Google engineers has been working on the project as part of a fellowship program at Google that lets employees work on pro bono projects full-time for up to six months.
Google has made numerous moves into the healthcare market in recent years, many of which have entangled the company in controversies related to privacy and concerns over data access.
That’s included the company’s involvement with an online COVID-19 screener launched by one of its sister companies, as well as a massive data-sharing partnership with St. Louis-based hospital giant Ascension. Last week, a federal judge in Illinois threw out a lawsuit that alleged UChicago Medicine had violated HIPAA when it shared patient data with Google as part of a research project in 2017.