Microsoft teams up with AstraZeneca on AI incubator

Microsoft is teaming up with AstraZeneca, a U.K. drugmaker, to create a health-tech incubator in Paris aimed at bringing new solutions to the field’s most difficult problems.

Startups joining the AI Factory for Health will gain access to AstraZeneca’s clinical expertise and legal skills, along with its links to healthcare establishments and data, the companies said in a statement. Microsoft will provide technological skills and the services of its Azure cloud network.

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Signage displayed outside the Microsoft Corp. main campus in Redmond, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg

The collaboration builds on Microsoft’s AI Factory, which has already supported 27 startups in various fields. It also involves Inria, the French national research institute for the digital sciences, and venture capital investors Partech Partners and Serena, according to the statement.

Pharma companies are turning to AI, machine learning and advanced computing to speed the costly search for drugs and determine which approaches are most likely to yield successful products. AstraZeneca just announced a collaboration with Schrodinger to use that company’s technology for predicting molecular binding, a key part of drug activity.