Tech

Amazon AWS launches $20 million initiative to help fight the coronavirus

Key Points
  • Amazon is launching a diagnostics development unit through its cloud unit, AWS. 
  • The idea is to back researchers with funds, and help provide technology infrastructure. 
  • The goal is to develop a faster and more affordable test for the coronavirus. 
  • It's committing an initial $20 million to the initiative.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.
CNBC


Amazon AWS announced Friday it's setting aside an initial $20 million to help accelerate research and development of diagnostic solutions. That includes, but won't be limited to, helping push forward a more accurate, faster coronavirus COVID-19 test. 

"One area where we have heard an urgent need is in the research and development of diagnostics, which consist of rapid, accurate detection and testing of COVID-19," Amazon said. "Better diagnostics will help accelerate treatment and containment, and in time, shorten the course of this epidemic.

Amazon specifies that the program, called the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, is open to accredited research institutions and private entities that are AWS customers. At launch, the program includes 35 global research institutions, startups and businesses. It'll also be supported by an outside technical advisory group made up of "leading scientists, global health policy experts, and thought leaders" who specialize in infectious disease diagnostics. 

It hopes to focus these resources specifically on AWS customers that are working on point-of-care diagnostics, or testing that can be done at home or at a clinic with same-day results. "Given the need, the emphasis will initially be on COVID-19, but we will also consider other infectious disease diagnostic projects," Amazon said.

Currently, it can take more than a day for the COVID-19 test result to be returned. In that time, people are left in limbo wondering whether they should self-quarantine. More frequent and accurate testing help public health officials have a better understanding of how pervasive the virus is globally.

As AWS describes it, the development of faster detection will likely result in faster treatments. "Accurate detection is the tip of the spear for effective pandemic response strategy," it said in its announcement.

Amazon is in talks with the Gates Foundation to deliver test kits to people's homes. Seattle is one of the areas that is hardest hit by the coronavirus. Two of Amazon's employees have tested positive for the virus.

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