In the time of Covid pandemic, AI comes to the rescue

BenevolentAI, a London-based startup has found an already approved drug as a potential treatment for the disease

By   |  Published: 18th Apr 2020  11:18 amUpdated: 18th Apr 2020  12:19 pm
Source: Website

Hyderabad: An Artificial Intelligence (AI) software developed by BenevolentAI, a London-based startup has created a super search engine that combines the data from the drug industry data and chunks of new information garnered from scientific research papers.

The software has helped the company to identify a rheumatoid arthritis drug, Baricitinib that can help reduce and stem some of the most severe symptoms of the deadly virus. The drug impedes a protein known as Cytokine which is involved in the over-the-top immune response. But in some case involving Covid-19 patients where the virus enters the lungs, excessive or uncontrolled levels of this protein is released which is called a cytokine storm, which can result in hyperinflammation, and can even prove fatal.

According to a report on, Eli Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company that markets the arthritis drug, had said earlier this week that it is working on a large clinical trial of the drug with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The trial is supposed to begin in the US and could be expanded to include patients in Europe and Asia; and the results are expected by late June. It usually takes years to design, organise, and launch a trial, Patrik Jonsson, president of Lilly’s biomedicines division, had said.

Even as clinical trials are yet to begin and though there are many reasons for caution regarding the drug in question, many big pharmaceutical companies and investors are of the view that machine-learning technologies like AI, algorithms and computing powers can significantly cut down the cost and time in the development cycle of the drugs in some of the cases.

In recent years, a number of big Pharma companies have joined hands with IT firms to find novel compounds using machine-learning technology that targets particular biological molecules. These researches have been involved in finding a cure for various diseases from kidney diseases to cancer to Parkinson’s disease.

Other than helping pharma companies finding the cure for coronavirus, AI can be used in the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of the infections. The technology can also be used to develop early warning systems and alerts that can help predict any such outbreak in the future. It can also be used to track and predict how the disease will spread over space and time. This can also be helpful in combating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, by scanning public places for infected persons and for enforcing social distancing and lockdown measures.

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