This article was written by Sasha Banks-Louie and was originally published in Forbes.
One research team is combining artificial intelligence and computer vision technology to help treat diabetics. Another is using 3D imaging to analyze rocks and predict their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, and thereby reduce global warming. A third team created a platform used in designing new vaccines.
These life-changing efforts are part of a program called Oracle for Research. Its goal is to help researchers take on some of the world’s most pressing problems and yield measurable results within the next five years. As part of the program, Oracle is providing researchers with cloud computing resources, technical support, and data expertise.
Problems like those described above are data-intensive and require massive amounts of information to be processed quickly. Researchers affiliated with academic institutions or nonprofit research organizations worldwide can submit online their own projects for application to the Oracle program.
“Granting access to high-performance computing power alone is not enough,” says Alison Derbenwick Miller, who runs Oracle for Research. “Most researchers are neither computing experts nor data scientists, so we give them access to a dedicated team of technical experts and architects to allow researchers to focus on what they know best—their research and their results.”
For Moi Hoon Yap, that research involves using artificial intelligence to help clinicians treat patients with diabetes. A professor of computer vision and artificial intelligence at Manchester Metropolitan University, Yap, Professor Neil Reeves, and their team of researchers are working with the UK’s National Health Services and Oracle for Research to develop FootSnap AI, a mobile app that lets diabetics and their doctors quickly diagnose foot ulcers.
Diabetics frequently suffer nerve damage to their extremities that can cause a loss of foot sensation, so they might not notice a problem with their skin—“even when it’s breaking down or forming an ulcer,” Yap says. If such ulcers go untreated, they can infect the foot and require it to be amputated. FootSnap AI can respond to new demands rapidly, “with the cloud infrastructure speeding up the inference time and providing better accuracy in ulcer detection,” Yap says.
To train its machine-learning algorithm, FootSnap AI ingests thousands of images of diabetic foot ulcers, supplied and annotated by podiatrists at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. When a patient uploads an image of his or her foot to the app, the FootSnap algorithm looks for similar characteristics to those other images.
The model runs on a virtual machine and an Nvidia P100 GPU on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Since upgrading to Oracle, “we’re not spending time maintaining servers anymore,” says Bill Cassidy, a research associate and lead application developer on the project. “It affords us a lot more time to do the real work of researching and writing papers about how to solve this health crisis.”
Another researcher in the program is Saswata Hier-Majumder, a professor of geophysics at Royal Holloway University of London, who is working on a project to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and permanently store it in rocks underground. With his team of PhD students, he has developed a simulation that analyzes digital images of rocks and predicts their capacity to absorb CO2 and organically remineralize it.
The team takes images captured with 3D microtomography and runs them through its simulation engine to determine the pore volume of each fragment. A rock with 15% porosity might be able to hold and mineralize twice the amount of liquid CO2 as one with 5%.
Royal Holloway University’s simulation also runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, which lets researchers pick the amount of memory and threads needed to process the massive amounts of scanned images in a way that the team’s previous, on-premises computing options couldn’t. Says Hier-Majumder: “Oracle has helped us break the barrier of how much computational power we have in the lab.”
A third effort involves researchers from the University of Bristol and vaccine-technology startup Imophoron. They tapped Oracle’s program to help build what they describe as a vaccine design platform. The platform provides an “atomic blueprint of the common nanoparticle scaffold we now use for all vaccine designs,” says Imre Berger, professor of synthetic biology at the University of Bristol and cofounder of Imophoron.
Building that scaffold involved huge volumes of 3D images taken by an electron microscope and then processed using the high-performance computing capabilities of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Last year, the lab used the design platform for work on a vaccine against the mosquito-borne illness called chikungunya.
Discover what you can accomplish with Oracle for Research.