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As COVID-19 continues ravaging all the continents of the world, the technology industry has been working around the clock to find a way to help combat the deadly virus. However, it is becoming challenging for the sector that has a limited reach to single-handedly tackle such a massive outbreak more so when it comes to trying to find treatments. Regardless of this, companies that have massive computing resources have been supporting different initiatives offering their resources to effortsaft that help in the fight. The sector is awash with hopes in the ability of AI to help the world back to its feet after being turned upside down by COVID-19. The AI-Aided drug discovery may be a magic bullet as the world tries whatever is possible to come up with the right vaccine and possibly a cure to avert more deaths from the current pandemic.

As the race to curb the spread intensifies, coalitions are now expanding beyond the past territories. Companies from different nations are now coming together to figure out how technology can be incorporated into the vast arsenal of tools to counter the virus. Through different AI and tech initiatives, drug discovery can be eased. For instance, the Semantic-Scholar-like context-aware analysis approach can be deployed to assess many articles written about various strains of coronaviruses and their respective potential treatments. With the kind of potential that AI and tech possess when it comes to drug discovery, companies are now attracting millions of dollars in funding with the promise that it will help speed up the process of finding a drug for this disease.

Away from the COVID-19 pandemic, leading pharmaceutical companies are convinced that a solution is at hand with advancements that have been made in AI. For instance, Pfizer is using IBM Watson, a system that uses machine learning in its search for immune-oncology drugs. On the other hand, Sanofi is seeking services of a UK start-up Exscientia with regard to its AI platform to look for metabolic-disease therapies. From these collaborations, it is clear that tech companies are helping pharmaceutical companies to speed up and ensure their search for drugs is accurate and cheap.

Not there yet

While AI has not yielded notable results in the drug search, if the proponents of this approach are right, big data, AI and machine learning will usher in a new era of a fast, cheaper and effective search for drugs.  Some of the skeptics and most experts expect these tools to be a game-changer and would become increasingly crucial as we enter into a new era of research and development. The shift presents both new opportunities and fresh challenges for scientists, especially taking into account the fact that such technologies require expertise and financial investments. They are also risky since the early adopters of AI have not fully discovered what AI can or cannot do. However, with the current mess caused by the coronavirus pandemic, companies are already deploying AI early enough to help fight the spread of the pandemic. Through the analysis, between 10 and 100 substances have emerged as the potential best cures in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

On another front, AI is helping in understanding the human body and how specific diseases affect different organs in the body. All the critical data can then be collected and analyzed comprehensively. This can lead to a highly sophisticated recognition of the impact of a particular ailment and the subsequent development of an effective drug to counter the disease. These advancements are the real reason why cures, vaccines, and antidotes may be hidden in available data stores, that can only be fully unlocked by big data and machine learning.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for Big Data & Analytics Tech Brief


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