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As the world grapples to understand what COVID-19 is and finding vaccines that will work, researchers have already created more than 50,000 articles that have information about the coronavirus. That is a massive amount of information that can be too overwhelming to make sense from. Some companies are now coming up with ways of enabling researchers to search through the web and process information fast for use in research.

Mendel, a company famous in clinical artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, has launched a new search engine that uses proprietary AI to absorb and process more than 50,000 research papers and give answers to COVID-19 research. This search engine is now available for researchers to use and can be accessed from The search engine parses all coronaviruses scholarly articles that have been made available to the public by the White House and helps researchers by answering questions such as the potential treatments, risk factors, and publications that are available about asymptomatic virus transmission. It also avails information such as the virus strains that are already known.

Verizon Media has also come up with another technology known as Vespa. This is an open-source big data system that creates an academic research engine. Based on COVID-19 Open Research Dataset known as (CORD-19), it helps medical researchers to come up with new insights that can be helpful in the fight against COVID-19. The documents within the system are updated weekly as new research is published in peer-reviewed publications or other scientific sources such as PubMed, medRxiv, and WHO COVID-19, among others. Researchers can access data through CORD-19 API, and anyone who wants it can download code and run the application through their own servers.

One thing that makes these search engines different from others is that they combine many different methods to come up with answers to different questions. They combine text and structured search by exploring semantic similarity. Thanks to various machine learning algorithms and pre-trained data-mining models, these models can search for different scientific texts and collate them.

Better understanding

Both Verizon and Mendel’s systems can help researchers to understand virology better and the outcome of different medications as well as care approaches that are proving useful. A good example is that of a researcher who used Mendel’s search engine that led him to finding evidence that Diltiazem has proven itself as an effective drug in halting the replication of the virus. The drug is used to treat hypertension and is widely known among the scientific community.

Apart from the two, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also has a recently launched search functionality that facilitates searching and retrieval of information in patented documents. These documents may be useful for innovators in developing technologies that will help in combating the novel coronavirus pandemic. The platform offers scientists, engineers, policymakers, and the public easy access to readily available information for detecting, preventing, and treating diseases such as COVID-19. It provides different search queries that are organized by patent information experts that have identified relevant areas.

Unlike the conventional means of research, the beauty of this technology is that it can absorb clinical findings much faster than humans and save lives. Although this is still a work in progress, it is already proving helpful as it provides daily updates to the documentation and has query features that can contribute immensely to the research. The latest additions have AI engines whose priority is identification. They have capabilities, including the ability to be asked questions that are highly specific such as the modes of transmission of the virus. They can also give better answers almost instantly on the areas of infections and the currently available medications that have shown signs of treating the disease.

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Scott Koegler

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


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