Beyond Human Capabilities: Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

At RubyDuke, we’ve always got one ear on the work of healthcare and scientific research. So here is a whistle stop tour of the fascinating area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in medical research.

AI Innovations have played an increasingly important role in healthcare since the early 2000s. The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic meant AI was catapulted into the limelight, as healthcare systems adapted to cope with the pressures of the pandemic.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of AI in healthcare, and where it’s going? Let’s have a look.

But firstly—what is Artificial Intelligence?

The origins of AI can be traced back to Alan Turing, who questioned whether machines had the ability to think.

Today, AI has come to mean the capacity of computers to mimic the cognitive function of the human mind.

Machine Learning is a subtype of AI that has come to dominate the field since the 2000s. Machine learning systems to automatically learn and improve from experience. Think predictive text, weather forecasting, email filtering, and image recognition.


History of AI in healthcare

There’s evidence to suggest AI is performing on a par or better than humans in various areas of healthcare. But where did this all start?

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What about brand-new innovations?

BioNTech and InstaDeep – an early warning system for dangerous Covid-19 variants

Covid-19 caused a surge in AI innovation in the healthcare sector. In January of this year BioNTech of Pfizer vaccine fame, and UK AI specialists InstaDeep announced their new Early Warning System (EWS), based on a new computational method that analyses worldwide available sequencing data to detect potential high-risk new Covid-19 variants.

The EWS identified more than 90% of Covid-19 variants that the WHO designated potentially dangerous, on average two months in advance.


Digital health apps are another exciting area of healthcare where data is playing a pivotal role. AI-powered applications are transforming the health sector, as machine learning algorithms are able to find trends in data.

  • Professor Tim Spector’s app ZOE COVID Study app was launched early on in the pandemic, and now has 4 million users, and is the world’s largest ongoing study of Covid-19. Users log symptoms, and the logged data is analysed using machine learning techniques and algorithms. The ZOE Covid app data analysis has resulted in illuminating breakthroughs since early 2020: the government listed loss of sense of smell as an official Covid-19 symptom as a result of the ZOE app’s work.


Co-founded with George Hadjigeorgiou and Jonathan Wolf, whose backgrounds are in artificial intelligence and consumer apps, ZOE was set up as a nutritional study, aiming to better understand the gut-microbiome and the role it plays in public health.


  • FemTech apps have surged over last decade. It’s no secret that women’s health has been historically overlooked. Things are beginning to change in the world of academic research, and meanwhile FemTech apps are totally uprooting some areas of women’s health. Data-based apps lead the field. Apps like Clue, Glow, and Flo allow women to log their symptoms to better track their menstrual cycle. Algorithms use the data to predict symptoms, cycle lengths, and suspected ovulation.


Natural Cycles is an app that requires users to log their temperatures every morning, using AI algorithms to predict the ‘fertile window’. It is the first app of its kind to be CE marked in Europe. The app, despite some controversy, is only growing: the attraction is clear for many women who don’t wish to use hormonal or invasive contraception.



The AI healthcare boom shows no signs of slowing.

  • BenevolentAI, an AI based drug-discovery company, announced in December 2021 an expansion of its collaboration with AstraZeneca. They’ve set their sights on lupus and heart failure, alongside existing projects on kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. BenevolentAI identified the new drug baricitinib, which was later approved for use severe cases of Covid-19.


  • Cambridge-1, the UKs most powerful super computer, was launched in 2021, following a $100 million investment from NVIDIA. The super computer will use AI technology to enable medical researchers to solve the biggest healthcare challenges.


  • Progress on Elon Musk’s highly controversial Neuralink, a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) seems to be accelerating. Having tested the BCI on animals, human trials are the next step for Musk.

Look out for exciting developments in drug development, paralysis, diabetes, diagnosis, and countless other areas as pioneering AI projects emerge.



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