Nearly four months have passed since the coronavirus outbreak was reported in Wuhan. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers have been constantly looking for a cure in the form of drugs and vaccines but that could take 12 to 18 months or even more. Now, researchers are taking help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop an exit strategy from this global lockdown.
In fact, as the death toll keeps climbing, doctors are hunting for treatments that will not only lessen the impact of the virus but also reduce its severity and in that way savelives. Artificial intelligence can help in two major ways, surveillance and AI-based antidote search.
Globally, AI giants along with pharmaceutical companies are using their fastest supercomputers to crunch huge quantities of data to identify candidates that might work. In March, the IBM Summit, famed as one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, had identified 77 compounds as potential candidates. As these AI companies keep making progress in fighting COVID-19, their stock are sure to trend northward.
AI Tools to Predict Patients' Hospitalization Requirement
Leading healthcare AI, Jvion helps in predicting which patients diagnosed with coronavirus require hospitalization. This not only reduces pressure on hospitals during the pandemic but also helps critical care patients get utmost attention. Jvion basically uses machine-learning algorithms to identify risk factors that make coronavirus patients prone to complications, and help doctors to identify patients requiring assistance on an urgent basis.
Further, AI also helps in enhancing surveillance, monitoring and detection capabilities. As lockdowns have been imposed in restricting the spread of the virus, AI plays a critical role in preserving public safety and social order. For instance, in China, authorities relied on facial recognition cameras to track a man who had traveled to an affected area and local police instantly instructed him to self-quarantine.
In parts of Europe, especially Spain, police is using technology to enforce quarantine. Drones are being used to patrol and broadcast audio messages to the public and encourage them to stay at home. At the same time, a surveillance company in the United States announced the development of an AI-based thermal camera that can detect fevers.
Along with that, AI is also helping government track movement of large groups, and individuals who traveled abroad to determine the risk factor that a person has to contract and spread the virus.
AI to Help Medical Researchers in Drug Discovery
So far, WHO has identified four most viable therapies that help coronavirus patients recover. However, results differ from one patient to another. The bucket includes an HIV combination treatment, an anti-malarial and a drug developed for Ebola but never used.
Here AI plays a crucial role as immense computing power is being used to aid scientists. Open sharing of data allows scientists to map the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The data pool includes potential candidate treatments of pharmaceutical companies from across the globe. Artificial intelligence helps in screening at an unprecedented speed and global engagement of institutional, commercial and international organizations will help in running multiple trials at a time.
In fact, in the last week of March, an AI platform run by Gero identified six drugs that could help combat the novel coronavirus. These drugs are already approved for use in other indications. Progress is being made rapidly in this field with technology giants like Microsoft Corporation MSFT teaming up with C3.ai and Princeton, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, the Universities of California, Illinois and Chicago. Scientist will be given funding to access most advanced supercomputers to search for solutions.
However, pharmaceutical companies need to give access to their chemical libraries so that candidates can be identified and put to trials as soon as possible. Private companies like Iktos that uses AI for novel drug design and SRI International have entered into a collaboration agreement designed to accelerate discovery and development of antiviral therapies. Iktos will be using SRI’s SynFini, a fully automated end-to-end synthetic chemistry system to design novel, optimized compounds and accelerate the identification of drug candidates to treat several viruses causing a range of diseases from influenza to COVID-19.
3 Stocks to Watch
Artificial intelligence has immense potential and many companies still believe that their supercomputers are not being used to their fullest capacity. In fact, it is said that in future, AI could use social media data to predict potential outbreaks. Given such developments and the help AI is providing amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is prudent to keep a close watch on these three AI-focused stocks.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, Baidu, Inc. BIDU has offered its Linearfold algorithm to scientific and medical teams. The Linearfold algorithm is significantly faster at predicting a virus’ secondary RNA structure than traditional RNA folding algorithms. Scientists at Baidu are using this algorithm to predict the secondary structure of Covid-19 RNA sequence. The process is reducing overall analysis time from 55 minutes to 27 seconds, making analysis 120 times faster.
The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current quarter is 80.5% compared with the Zacks Internet - Services industry’s projected earnings growth of 28.7%. Baidu carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.
Alibaba Group Holding Limited BABA has also made subsequent progress in the field of AI. The company’s Alibaba Cloud, DAMO Academy, and DingTalk together have launched a series of AI technologies and cloud-based solutions. The technology helps to analyze CT images within 20 seconds, diagnosing suspected novel coronavirus cases with an accuracy rate of 96%. Alibaba is sharing its AI-powered novel coronavirus disease diagnostic technology for free use by hospitals across the globe.
The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 31.3% against the Zacks Internet - Commerce industry’s projected earnings decline of 1.7%. Alibaba carries a Zacks Rank #2.
Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL subsidiary DeepMind AI is helping scientists understand the peculiar features of COVID-19. In January, DeepMind introduced AlphaFold that predicts the 3D structure of a protein-based on its genetic sequence and last month the system was put to test on the novel coronavirus.
The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 24.8%. Alphabet carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
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