New Institute Blending Health Care, AI to Take Office Space in Rockville

Published in the Baltimore Business Journal | September 11, 2023

An institute co-led by the University of Maryland that aims to explore how artificial intelligence can improve health care plans to take 27,491 square feet of office space in Rockville.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents finance committee on Thursday approved a lease for the University of Maryland Institute for Health Computing at the 6116 Executive Blvd. office building. University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), the two main partners in the project, plan to sign a $10.9 million, 134-month lease, with two early termination options. The deal is a sublease agreement with the American Occupational Therapy Association that begins in October. The University of Maryland Medical System, the Universities at Shady Grove and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County are also partners on the project.

UMB and College Park announced plans for the Institute for Health Computing in 2022 to explore how recent advancements in AI can be used in health care. The partnership chose the suburban D.C. location to take advantage of its proximity to federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and to the North Bethesda metro station, which enables quick access to downtown D.C. The institute has been touted as a major economic driver for the county and plans to eventually develop dedicated facilities on 12 acres of Metro-owned land around the metro station.

Montgomery County will give a $40 million grant to the project over six years and the two universities are contributing an initial batch of $25 million of funding through the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the StateThe memorandum of understanding between the county and the universities states that Montgomery County will also apply for $3 million in federal funding to support the institute.

The innovations developed at the lab could create a revolution in health care similar to the explosion in cell therapy and other genetic-based technology caused by the advancement in DNA technology, said Amitabh Varshney, the dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences at College Park during the finance committee meeting.

“Two decades ago, we witnessed a revolution in genome sequencing in Montgomery County, Maryland,” Varshney said. “Now with the power of bioinformatics, AI, and , we are poised to make the next big leap forward in medicine.”

The institute plans to build off some of the innovations that have already begun to shape health care using advanced computers. AI’s ability to quickly analyze large sets of data was a key factor in the rapid development of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a USM release on the creation of the center. Computers have the potential to help patients in more discrete ways as well beyond the development of new medications or vaccines. AI’s ability to quickly analyze large data sets can identify trends in lab tests to diagnose high blood pressure or kidney disease earlier.

“You can look at many patients, their experiences, their outcomes, and based on the data the next patient that comes along with a particular condition can potentially be better cared for,” USM chancellor Dr. Jay Perman said during the meeting. “What could be better than that?”

The institute will also explore the potential of other technologies like virtual reality and 5G internet. Virtual reality can be used to improve medical education by creating a more immersive experience for students and giving doctors new diagnostic tools when treating patients online.

There are several Baltimore companies exploring the possibilities of AI tools outside of health care. Cerebro Capital is using the technology to predict bank loan terms, while technology firm Mindgrub used the software to compose music for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.