IIIT Hyderabad’s Healthcare and AI Initiative


At the International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIITH), the emphasis has always been on dissolving boundaries to acquire knowledge through its interdisciplinary curriculum. Hence when a research initiative that applied AI in the healthcare space was mooted early last year, IIITH proactively stepped in to bring faculty and multiple students together as a single team. Unfortunately, these efforts coincided with the Covid-19 outbreak temporarily derailing the momentum. Recognizing however that Coronavirus is here for the long haul, the entire project transitioned to the online mode with 10 students from across India.

Illustrative of its interdisciplinary nature, the healthcare and AI (HAI) initiative runs 10 projects across a gamut of healthcare issues from automatic identification and characterization of kidney diseases to interpreting chest radiology images for diagnostics. There are also ongoing projects relevant for drug discovery such as the creation of an ML model that can predict the binding site from the 3D structure of proteins.

A study that draws immediate attention due to its application to Covid-19 is one on mutation prediction of viruses based on genomic sequences where researchers are trying to predict the potential mutation sequence of Covid-19 as well the host of Covid-19 using ML and deep learning techniques.

Other research initiatives have resulted in scientific papers that are ready for publication. One of them pertains to an improved Visual Question Answering model (where the system infers answers from text-based questions) on medical images outperforming existing models.

Another’s goal is to develop a computer-aided diagnostic tool that can detect and classify children on the autism spectrum. Other research studies that can enhance the accuracy of disease diagnosis and prognosis involve deep learning models for classifying various types of brain cancers, predicting the progression of pulmonary fibrosis and interpretation of abnormal ECG heart rates.

At a time when the research was being put on the backburner due to the uncertainties brought forth by the pandemic, it is laudable that a joint effort of this kind was not only possible but successful. It’s unique for two reasons – the nature of collaboration itself and the virtual platform upon which it has been executed.

With the launch of an applied Artificial Intelligence research center on campus called INAI in collaboration with Intel, the Telangana government, IIITH, and the Public Health Foundation of India, this in-house healthcare project acts as a ‘catalyst’. HAI is laying the foundation for much bigger things that IIITH has in store with INAI. We plan on engaging with more faculty, and researchers from across the country as well as collaborate with hospitals and other healthcare agencies.