Microsoft vows to ‘solve’ cancer with molecular computers

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Microsoft will try to fight and beat cancer with the help of the new approach that involves not medical studies, but computer science.


Around the world there are teams working in laboratories to find out something they didn’t even come close to solving for decades.

While other teams are working hard on creating brand new smartphones, this “tiny army” of specialists will be working on fighting a disease that may kill 12 million people annually by 2030.

A team of scientists from the Cambridge biological computation unit proves that by using computers we may improve our medicine dramatically. According to Chris Bishop, the director of the Microsoft Research Cambridge laboratory, the fields of computers and biology may seem completely different. Yet the processes happening in organic cells are somehow similar to the complex processes inside a desktop computer.

Professor Bishop and his team are developing molecular computers built from DNA which act like a doctor to spot cancer cells and destroy them.

The technology giant launched its first “wet” laboratory this summer, where it will test the findings of the computer scientists who are creating large-scale maps of the internal workings of cell networks .

One team of researchers is using machine learning and natural language processing to help leading oncologists determine effective cancer treatment by providing an intuitive way to sort through all the research data available.

Another has paired machine learning with computer vision to give radiologists a more detailed understanding of how their patients’ tumours are progressing, while a different team created powerful algorithms to help understand how cancers develop.

Jeannette M. Wing, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president in charge of basic research labs, said that results were dependent on both biologists and computer scientists bringing their expertise to the problem.

“The collaboration between biologists and computer scientists is actually key to making this work,” she said.

“If the computers of the future are not going to be made just in silicon but might be made in living matter, it behoves us to make sure we understand what it means to program on those computers.”

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