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How AI/ML tools are helping scientists fight the COVID-19 pandemic

As the world is grappling with COVID-19, AI is playing a crucial role in accelerating drug development against coronavirus.

It has just been over three months since the first coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. In this short span, the pandemic has claimed over 50,000 lives around the world and the infected cases have crossed a million mark. The spread of the virus is beginning to weigh on the economy, with many predicting a global financial crisis.

However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) appears to be the silver lining on this cloud as it is helping biotech and pharmaceutical companies to speed up drug discovery and development for COVID-19. In fact, it took just one month for a group of Chinese scientists to decode the genome sequence of the coronavirus with the help of AI tools. Scientists in Australia, meanwhile, used AI to recreate a copy of the virus in their lab.

To understand this magnificent feat, one has to look back to 2003. That was the time SARS outbreak occurred in China and spread to 16 other countries, killing over 700 people. It took several months for scientists then to decode the genome sequence of the SARs virus. This time, a combination of powerful AI technology and genomics helped scientists to complete the sequencing work in no time.

The sequencing of the virus genome, in turn, has helped two US-based companies to develop potential vaccines targeting COVID-19. They are now undergoing clinical trials. These companies managed to generate these DNA-based vaccines using their custom-made computer algorithm. They plugged the genetic blueprint of the virus into their machine learning algorithm and viola, the system came out with a design of the vaccine. Currently, AI is one of the fastest growing technologies on the world. Tractica predicts AI software market to reach $126 billion by 2025 from about $10 billion in 2018.

Repurposing Existing Drugs

Machine learning algorithms are assisting scientists to look at the possibility of repurposing existing drugs to treat COVID-19. Genetic similarities between coronavirus and other viruses, such as SARS and MERS make it possible for an algorithm to create a knowledge graph to identify correlations across large datasets of different viruses. This expansive breadth of data is helping scientists to identify the approved drugs that can be used to counter COVID-19 infections.

In addition, companies are taking advantage of deep learning techniques to scan and analyze the available literature to understand molecular structures and their pharmacological properties. The objective here is to solve the structures of viral proteins and develop an understanding of how the virus interacts with the human cells to cause COVID-19. Subsequently, AI systems will be able to design proteins or identify unknown proteins to fight against the coronavirus.

Global Collaboration and Disease Management

AI system can also be used to support global collaboration between scientific communities. Hong Kong-based therapeutic company Insilico Medicine has used AI system to comb through the available data to identify potential molecules that can be developed as drugs in just four days. The company then made this data public so that others can use them and build upon further to develop compounds to combat the epidemic.

Genome sequencing, building models on protein structures and combing through billions of files to identify useful data, can take months or sometimes years to complete without the help of powerful computers. Not to mention the millions of hours of manpower and other resources that need to be deployed to achieve the desired results. AI/ML tools have not only accelerated these processes but also helped execute them at a reduced cost. It has also eliminated the risks of errors associated with human interventions.

AI can also be deployed to reduce the burden on first responders and other medical staff. The rising number of COVID-19 patients has put enormous pressure on the healthcare infrastructure worldwide. Many countries are forced to bring back their retired staff to the frontlines to meet the crunch in manpower. AI-based mobile applications and chatbots can help people answer basic queries on precautionary measures. They can work as first responders and alert authorities in case of an emergency. AI tools can also assist in speeding up diagnostic checks and patient management in hospitals.

While the advancements in AI can play a significant role in our fight against COVID-19, you need a trusted IT partner to develop and deploy AI-based solutions. Gemini has a strong team of experts who can help you unlock new opportunities and improve efficiency using AI technologies. Our solutions ensure tangible results and actionable insights. We can design and deploy customized AI solutions for the healthcare segment, so you can be on top of disease management and therapeutic services.