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Lucchinetti: Texas’ ‘Big Team’ Poised for Big Impact as AI & Health Converge

June 5, 2024

In January, UT Austin designated 2024 as its “Year of AI,” signaling a commitment to meeting recent momentum surrounding artificial intelligence with the school’s strength of expertise across science, engineering, medicine, liberal arts and more.

“Our opportunities in AI and health are really a team sport,” said Claudia F. Lucchinetti, M.D., dean of Dell Medical School and senior vice president for medical affairs at UT. “It’s going to require a big team, big science and big data to make a big impact.”

At the inaugural UT System AI Symposium in Health Care last week, Lucchinetti joined experts including state Sen. Tan Parker and John Zerwas, M.D., UT System’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, to discuss the statewide expertise and opportunities to leverage AI and machine learning to improve health and care.

We really have a spectrum of expertise across the system and across the state,” Lucchinetti said. “Our panel was a perfect of example of what it’s going to take AI and really have this transformative impact on health care.”

In Austin, that impact includes transdisciplinary, cross-campus collaborations using AI to enable efforts like brain-computer interface to improve mobility for those with neurological conditionsimproving neurosurgery by leveraging the brain’s neuroplasticity, mapping and reproducing how language is processedenhancing diagnostic medicine and much more.

Big data and basic science are also converging to advance health-focused solutions from the lab bench with the support of teams like the Institute for the Foundations of Machine Learning, where artificial intelligence underpins work like protein engineering to improve therapeutics and vaccine development. Researchers like Jason McLellan, Ph.D., who led the creation of spike proteins used to develop some of the first COVID-19 vaccines, are leading teams in speeding further vaccine development aided by AI.

As evidenced by experts gathered at the Dallas symposium, collaboration across UT System institutions will be crucial to not only advancing AI-enabled tools, but to making Texas a leader in an AI-literate workforce.

“All 14 UT institutions are somehow or someway involved with AI that has some type of potential health care benefit or consideration,” Zerwas said. “It’s an exciting place if you look where AI can interface — education, clinical care, research — and will have dramatic impact in terms of how fast we get to certain places … Absolutely, UT System will be a leader.”