The looming threat of Covid-19 and the grim reality of the toll that novel coronavirus takes on humankind, makes it imperative that we find a way to prevent the spread faster and with less cost. Currently nine out of ten drug therapies fail mostly between phase 1 trials and regulatory approval. The estimated cost of developing a new treatment is around staggering US $2.6 billion. While this article won’t address it, I want to mention that many bio/pharma companies are working with repurposed drugs to find a cure and at least 69 drugs have been identified as treatment possibilities. Drugs also have side effects and need to be tested for safety. Let us focus for a while on search for the vaccine.
Many companies including Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech are working on vaccines. With the help of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and other technologies the hunt for new pharmaceuticals and appropriate chemicals is expected to be quicker, cheaper and more effective. Novel coronavirus presents the most unprecedented challenge to date because of the speed with which it spreads.
Who better than a supercomputer made by a company that has been on the cutting edge of innovation for over a century, to take on this speed challenge? IBM scientists instructed the world’s fastest computer to tackle this challenge at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Summit can run 200 quadrillion computations per second. The scientists ran thousands of simulations to analyse which drug compounds could stop the coronavirus from infecting the host cells.
Summit, an IBM supercomputer equipped with the “brain of AI” identified 77 compounds (from over 8000 compounds) that could be efficacious in preventing coronavirus from spreading in the host. This is promising news in humanity’s quest for an effective vaccine against the virus. These findings are published in the journal ChemRxiv and give us hope although road is still long to get there.
With increasing computer processing power and advanced algorithms, AI has been employed to analyze large data sets with greater efficiency and will likely lead to many exciting innovations. While AI and ML show promise to change every industry sector for the better, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning have become the most widely discussed topics in the healthcare sector and the excitement keeps growing.
I will be looking forward to hearing about new innovations AI/ML at #TiEcon2020. Stay tuned for new dates for the conference at http://www.tiecon.org and on this blog.