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Amazon to Give Out $12M Under Next Phase of AWS Diagnostics Development Initiative

NEW YORK – Amazon said on Monday that it is launching the next phase of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative, in which it plans to distribute $12 million this year to fund projects for SARS-CoV-2 testing, as well as for other infectious disease diagnostics.

The company first launched the initiative in March 2020 as a way to accelerate research, innovation, and development of diagnostics for the detection of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Amazon said it would invest an initial $20 million, and that the initiative would be open to accredited research institutions and private entities that are using AWS to support research-oriented workloads for the development of point-of-care testing that can be done at home or at a clinic with same-day results.

In one project, for example, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers developed a smartwatch-based diagnostic system that flagged signs of a person's immune system fighting a potential COVID-19 infection. The Stanford team is currently recruiting participants for a study, with the goal of increasing the app's ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real time.

In another project, Illumina accelerated the identification of viral mutations through next-generation sequencing, Amazon said. Illumina released its SARS-CoV-2 Data Toolkit in April 2020, which includes a number of apps built to analyze COVID-19 samples on Illumina's BaseSpace Sequence Hub, which runs on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

Amazon said it awarded $8 million to 87 organizations in 17 countries in the first phase of the project, supporting diagnostic projects ranging from molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids to diagnostic imaging, wearables, and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus.

It plans to distribute the remaining $12 million starting April 12 and is expanding the scope of the initiative to include early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and the community level, prognosis to better understand disease trajectory, and public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide.

AWS also said it will prioritize COVID-19 projects but will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases. The company will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority given to applications received before July 31.

"We have seen transformative innovations in how we diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high quality, and direct-to-consumer tests," Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon's COVID-19 response unit, said in a statement. "These changes will continue to evolve and improve our ability to respond to future outbreaks. We have already seen inspirational results from the Diagnostic Development Initiative, and we look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organizations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks."