The co-founder of Google’s London-based DeepMind artificial intelligence unit has taken an extended leave of absence from the firm.

According the FT, co-founder Mustafa Suleyman is currently on extended leave from the company, amid speculation that parent company Google had taken over the bulk of his responsibilities.

The development comes after Google announced last November that it would transfer control of DeepMind to a new Google Health division in California, as it invests more in commercialising its medical research efforts.

DeepMind’s planned headquarters in London’s Kings Cross. Image credit: DeepMind

Deepmind co-founder

That said, DeepMind was reportedly intending to retain and expand its London base.

According the FT, DeepMind said that Suleyman’s leave, was a mutual decision between him and Alphabet.

“Mustafa’s taking some time out right now after ten hectic years,” a DeepMind spokesperson is quoted as saying. Apparently the company expects him to return at the end of the year.

FT said that the move was no surpris to those who worked closely with Suleyman and his team at DeepMind.

When the spin-off to the US was reported last November, Suleyman said he would no longer oversee the day-to-day operations of the health team, but he would sit on Google Health’s strategy board and offer advice.

One person told the FT that since his main focus was health applications, which was carved out by Google, there wasn’t much left for him to manage.

DeepMind was acquired by Google for a reported £400 million in 2014.

The firm was had its moments in the spotlight, most notably in 2017 when a war of words erupted between Deepmind and the authors of an academic paper, which fiercely criticised a NHS patient data sharing deal.

The academic paper was published in Health and Technology, and alleged that “inexcusable” mistakes were made when DeepMind Health signed a data sharing agreement with hospitals run by London’s Royal Free NHS Trust.

The agreement was linked to the development of a mobile application called Streams by DeepMind, aimed at helping hospital staff monitor patients with kidney disease.

The UK’s data regulator ruled that the hospital had not told patients enough about the way their data was used – but said the app could continue to be used if the “shortcomings” were addressed.

The app has since been praised by the hosiptal trust for speeding up kidney diagnoses.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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