Eleazar Eskin, chair of the UCLA Department of Computational Medicine, and his departmental colleagues will help spearhead a new collaboration between UCLA and Optum Labs, the research and development arm of UnitedHealth Group, focused on advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning in health care.

Working with Optum Labs, Eskin, a professor of computer science and human genetics, and UCLA researchers will seek to leverage these powerful technologies to develop personalized therapies and improve the cost and quality of patient care. The Optum Labs team will be led by Eran Halperin, a former UCLA professor of computer science, computational medicine, anesthesiology and human genetics who is Optum’s senior vice president for artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Faculty with the computational medicine department, which is affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and UCLA Health, perform research in biomedical data sciences — encompassing artificial intelligence, genomics, image analysis, prediction models, algorithms, sensors and other areas — with the goal of enhancing medical care and treatments. Eskin and departmental researchers were instrumental in developing the SwabSeq testing platform used to monitor COVID-19 on the UCLA campus.

As part of the five-year collaboration, which was negotiated and executed by the UCLA Technology Development Group, a joint steering committee will evaluate new research proposals and award initial grants, funded by $1 million from Optum Labs. A kickoff event to celebrate the new partnership will be held Dec. 6 at the Mong Auditorium in UCLA’s Engineering VI building.

“We are excited to create a collaboration that will bring AI closer to helping patients,” said Amir Naiberg, CEO of the Technology Development Group.