Updates on How AI Being Employed to Speed COVID-19 Treatments and Management


By AI Trends Staff
Medical researchers are employing AI to search through databases of known drugs to see if any can be associated with a treatment for the new COVID-19 coronavirus.
An early success story comes from BenevolentAI of London, which using tools developed to search through medical literature,  identified rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
In a pilot study at the end of March, 12 adults with moderate COVID-19 admitted to the hospital in either Alessandria or Prato, Italy, received a daily dose of baricitinib, along with an anti-HIV drug combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, for two weeks. Another study group of 12 received just lopinavir and ritonavir.
After their two-week treatment, the patients who received baricitinib had mostly recovered, according to a recent account in The Scientist .  Their coughs and fevers were gone; they were no longer short of breath. Seven of the 12 had been discharged from the hospital. In contrast, the group who didn’t get baricitinib still had elevated temperatures, nine were coughing, and eight remained short of breath. Just one patient from the lopinavir-ritonavir–only group had been discharged.
Researchers at Benevolent AI, along with collaborator Justin Stebbing , an oncologist at Imperial College London, published a letter to The Lancet on February 4, describing how they used AI to identify baricitinib’s potential to treat COVID-19.
AI “makes higher-order correlations that a human wouldn’t be capable of making, even with all the time in the world. It links datasets that a human wouldn’t be able to link,” stated Stebbing.
Benevolent researchers used the company’s knowledge graph—a digital storehouse of biomedical information and connections inferred and enhanced by machine learning—to identify two human protein targets to focus on: AP2-associated protein kinase 1 (AAK1) and cyclin g-associated kinase (GAK).
Justin Stebbing, an oncologist at Imperial College London The team used another algorithm to find existing drugs that could hit the protein targets, completing the work in a few days. Drugs not approved by regulators were eliminated, cutting the list to about 30. Eli Lilly, the company that makes baricitinib, has entered into an agreement with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the drug’s effectiveness in COVID-19 patients in the US.
“Even if the trial doesn’t work, we’re going to find out a huge amount of who it might work in and when it might work,” stated Stebbing. “It’s all about personalized medicine, which means treating the right person at the right time with the right disease with the right drugs. Hopefully, this will be a powerful part of the jigsaw.”
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