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NTT to launch AI-based genome screening for preventive medicine

Japanese telecom company aims to use technology for new service starting in 2020

NTT will begin offering a preventative medicine service next year aimed at helping companies control employee health care costs. (Nikkei montage/Reuters)

TOKYO -- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone will launch a preventive medicine business as early as 2020, Nikkei has learned.

The Japanese telecom company plans to use an artificial intelligence system to analyze patients' genomes and the results of physical exams to help prevent lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. The company hopes to take advantage of technology it has developed in its main communications business, such as big data analysis and cryptography, for the new business.

NTT believes the new operation will become a significant source of revenue, helping client companies rein in rising health care costs.

The NTT group holds medical data on 200,000 current and former employees in Japan, collected over three decades.

The company will provide the genome analysis service as part of its health checks starting in 2020 for employees who want it. It aims to use the large amounts of data collected from the screenings to improve the AI system's precision.

It plans to work with doctors at NTT Medical Center Tokyo and researchers at its life science research institution in the U.S., as well as to collaborate with Japanese universities and research institutions.

Doctors can use genome analysis to identify individual risks for particular lifestyle diseases. Even if someone has a blood sugar level below the risk threshold, for example, doctors can advise the person to exercise and cut back on high-risk foods to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes later.

NTT plans to set up a new, wholly owned subsidiary on July 1 that will work to improve the capabilities of the AI system, and begin offering the advisory service on preventive medicine as early as next year.

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