Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest health care provider, plans to spend $80 million to advance scientific research that could lead to new treatments for disease and boost startups working on artificial intelligence programs for health care.
The bulk of the funds, $50 million, will be set aside for scientists within the Partners system, which includes Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals. Partners plans to invest the money in early-stage research projects that could lead to new therapies for patients.
The money is designed to help scientists who may be running low on grants from traditional funding sources, such as the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Anne Klibanski, the chief executive of Partners, said many scientists are working on promising ideas, but they may not know how to advance their research to the point that it draws interest from venture capitalists or drug companies.
The new Partners initiative will help these researchers by giving them more funding to perform additional experiments, as well as business expertise to further their work, she said.
“Think about all the missed opportunities,” Klibanski said. “Who are those scientists out there that are working on something that could lead to a cure for a disease, but we haven’t identified them and given them the business expertise?”
Partners is also planning to spend $30 million in a venture fund to invest in startup companies developing artificial intelligence technology for health care. Partners hospitals will test the companies’ software. Artificial intelligence can be applied to many aspects of health care, from diagnosing patients and managing chronic disease, to doing back-office work.
Many hospital systems invest in scientific research and make money from it, but Partners is unusual in its scale.
The Partners network includes more than 6,000 clinicians and scientists. The organization has an annual research budget of about $1.9 billion, about half of it from federal agencies.
Partners makes about $200 million a year through licensing agreements and spinoff companies, a small but growing piece of the company’s overall revenue of more than $13 billion.
The new funding that Partners announced Monday comes on top of an existing $171 million fund, which has invested in 37 companies developing products that are based at least in part on Partners research. That fund is backed by Partners money as well as outside investors.
“[It] comes down to how quickly, how effectively do we get the byproducts of that research out to patients?” said Christopher Coburn, chief innovation officer at Partners. “That doesn’t happen by itself.”