A former senior director at the Department of Health has joined DeepMind, the artificial intelligence company known for its data sharing work with the Royal Free London Foundation Trust.
Will Cavendish, former DH director general of innovation, growth and technology, is to become head of strategy at the company, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet – Google’s parent company. In February he was seconded to the Cabinet Office.
DeepMind featured in the news earlier this year when the New Scientist obtained a copy of a data sharing agreement between the company and the Royal Free.
The revelation raised concerns about companies’ access to medical data without patient consent.
The company also made the news when it created a programme which beat a world champion at the Chinese board game Go.
Mr Cavendish’s achievements include leading the move to GP online booking and prescription services in the NHS, and negotiating deals that “made new drugs and vaccines available to NHS patients for the first time”, DeepMind said in a statement.
He also led the creation of What Works Centres, a network set up to provide evidence on effective uses of public money. Mr Cavendish has also been a World Bank economist and a lecturer. He was also chair of the informatics portfolio management board, which was replaced last month.
Mr Cavendish is the latest senior health policy figure to join a digital health company. Paul Bate left his role as Care Quality Commission strategy director to join Babylon Health, a company which allows patients to consult with doctors using a mobile app.
DeepMind says its goal is to “support clinicians by providing the technical expertise needed to build and scale technologies that help them provide the best possible care to their patients”.
In July, the company announced a collaboration with Moorfields Eye Hospital FT using anonymised eye scans to search for signs of diseases leading to blindness.
This was followed by a project with University College London Hospitals FT to develop an algorithm that can automatically differentiate between healthy and cancerous tissues in the neck and back.
DeepMind has also appointed Cathy Harris as product lead. She has held an executive and leadership roles at GE Healthcare, System C and Cerner.