By my estimates, somewhere between 100–200 million physicians, scientists, nurses, technologists, engineers are all taking aim at this pandemic. They are running tens of thousands of experiments in parallel and sharing information with a transparency and at speeds we’ve never seen before. ~Peter Diamandis
Another optimist, Peter Diamandis, says there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the response by scientists to this pandemic. We will also be much better prepared for the next one.
The problem with the world’s poor response to this pandemic is obvious. Our health care systems are vulnerable: poorly distributed medical supplies, overloaded medical staff, not enough hospital beds, PPE or testing, and no timely treatments or vaccines.
Much of the coming advances in healthcare are enabled by the vast amount of data now being uncovered, data that fuels artificial intelligence (AI) applications. AI and machine learning (ML) enables computers to mimic human intelligence and ingest large volumes of data to identify patterns and insights quickly.
I’ve covered AI advances several times in this newsletter, but more good AI news comes almost every day. In this issue, I review many of the areas that AI and ML are helping to fight Covid-19, launching a real AI healthcare revolution.
How AI and machine learning are helping to fight COVID-19
This article from the World Economic Forum recounts many ways AI and machine learning (ML) are helping in the fight.
In the fight against COVID-19, organizations have been quick to apply their machine learning expertise in several areas: scaling customer communications, understanding how COVID-19 spreads and speeding up research and treatment.
Good News: Here are just some of the ways AI and ML are being used today:
- chatbots for the contactless screening of COVID-19 symptoms and answering questions
- satellite crop-monitoring solutions to provide resiliency and certainty to supply chains
- forecasting the spread of COVID-19, to act as an early warning system
- identifying high-risk individuals, then calling them to offer essential supplies so they can stay at home
- accelerating the discovery of drugs to help treat COVID-19 and more.
Artificial intelligence spots COVID-19 in chest X-rays
We used to think that Covid-19 is “just” a respiratory disease, not so. It seems to be primarily a blood vessel disease. Even so, the lungs are often the most severe life-threatening target.
As hospitals have been overrun with patients, doctors have observed two basic types of lung damage, one more immediately life-threatening than the other. Treatment can differ between the types, so distinguishing the two could improve care and better allocate scarce resources. … current differentiation methods involve expensive and time-consuming procedures, such as computed tomography (CT) scans…
Good News: The Princeton investigator, Jason Fleischer’s ML model uses a simple X-ray image and finds patterns that are too subtle even for the radiologist. This tool gives doctors a new measure for determining the type and severity of COVID-19 pneumonia and identifying those in dire need of a ventilator.
And the process, on the ground, is simple.“Importantly, there is no change in practice,” Fleischer said. “The technician doesn’t have to do anything differently. Hospitals don’t have to do any new procedure. With the X-rays they already have — and routinely take — we can give them this extra information.”
AI accelerating drug discovery to fight COVID-19
As mentioned, AI has been used for forecasting the spread of Covid-19, screening patients, faster diagnosis, improving supply chains, and drug discovery. As you can imagine, the financial rewards are enormous for Big Pharma, for software developers, and companies that build the fastest AI/ML computers.
Researchers are running a global race to discover a vaccine, drug or combination of treatments that can disrupt the SARS-CoV-2 virus … Major efforts are underway to screen every possible molecule that might interact with the virus — and the proteins that control its behavior — to disrupt its activity. In addition to working faster, computational scientists are working smarter, combining artificial intelligence with physics-based drug docking and molecular dynamics simulations to rapidly look at the most promising molecules.
Good News: Promising AI/ML-powered drug discovery news is coming fast. Here is a brief list of recent developments:
- AI-Based Drug Discovery Model Hunts for Key Molecule to Block COVID-19
- AI drug discovery company Syntekabio identified respiratory disease drug as a potential COVID19 therapeutics
- DIA: AI increasingly used in drug development
- AI for Drug Discovery Market Emerging Trends
- Black-Owned laboratory uses artificial intelligence-based drug discovery platform to develop COVID-19 treatment
Like me, I’m betting that you didn’t know how many different areas related to Covid-19 can benefit from AI and ML. Any domain that requires human brains can benefit from the tireless application of the latest supercomputers and the explosion of information being collected.
Would you like to take part in this AI healthcare revolution? Put your home computer to work when you are not on Netflix, Zoom, or playing games. Learn how to Donate Your Unused CPU Cycles to Fight the Coronavirus.
I’m optimistic that AI and ML will continue to unveil solutions that will make this pandemic fade away and allow us to wake up from this fever dream. In the meantime, be vigilant!
Dr. Rod Murray
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