Google has finally absorbed the healthcare unit of its artificial intelligence company DeepMind, the British company it acquired for £400 million ($500 million) in 2016.
The change means that DeepMind Health, the unit which focuses on using AI to improve medical care, is now part of Google's own dedicated healthcare unit. Google Health was created in November 2018, and is run by big-name healthcare CEO David Feinberg.
DeepMind's clinical lead, Dominic King, announced the change in a blogpost on Wednesday. King will continue to lead the team out of London.
It has taken some 10 months for the integration to happen.
It also comes one month after the DeepMind cofounder overseeing that division, Mustafa Suleyman, confirmed that he was on leave from the business for unspecified reasons. He has said he plans to return to DeepMind before the end of the year.
Suleyman spearheaded DeepMind's "applied" division, which focuses on the practical application of artificial intelligence in areas such as healthcare and energy. DeepMind's other cofounder and CEO, Demis Hassabis, is more focused on the academic side of the business and the firm's research efforts.
One source with knowledge of the matter said Google planned to take more control of DeepMind's "applied" division, leaving Suleyman's future role at the business unclear. The shift would essentially leave DeepMind as a research-only organization, with Google focused on commercializing its findings. "They've created a private university for AI in Britain," the person said.
DeepMind hinted as much in November, when it announced the Streams app would fall under Google's auspices.
DeepMind declined to comment.
The integration sees DeepMind's health partnerships with Britain's state-funded health system, the NHS, continued under Google Health, something that may raise eyebrows. A New Scientist investigation in 2016 revealed that DeepMind, with its Streams app, had extensive access to 1.6 million patients' data in an arrangement with London's Royal Free Hospital. A UK regulator ruled that the data-sharing agreement was unlawful. The revelations triggered public outcry over worries that a US tech giant, Google, might gain access to confidential patient data for profit.
DeepMind's current NHS partnerships include Moorfields Eye Hospital to detect eye disease, and University College Hospital on cancer radiotherapy treatment. In the US, it has partnered the US Department of Veterans Affairs on predicting patient deterioration. Dominic King, DeepMind's clinical lead, wrote in a post: "We see enormous potential in continuing, and scaling, our work with all three partners in the coming years as part of Google Health."
He added: "As has always been the case, our partners are in full control of all patient data and we will only use patient data to help improve care, under their oversight and instructions."