How AI steered doctors toward a possible Coronavirus treatment - (The New York Times via NewsPoints Desk)

  • Researchers at artificial intelligence (AI) start-up BenevolentAI helped identify Eli Lilly's baricitinib as a potential treatment for COVID-19, and the arthritis drug is now part of a clinical trial, reported The New York Times.

  • According to the news source, BenevolentAI has spent the past several years building technology that could help find information buried in vast troves of academic papers and other scientific literature.

  • In late January, after talking with one of the company's investors in Asia about the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Joanna Shields asked Peter Richardson, BenevolentAI's vice president of pharmacology, if the company could explore potential treatments.

  • Using its automated language tools, the company's engineers generated a detailed and intricately interconnected database of particular biological processes related to the coronavirus.

  • Drawing on what the technology found in the literature, Richardson could map out the connections between particular human genes and the biological processes affected by the coronavirus. As a multicolored map appeared on his computer screen, two genes leapt out at him.

  • Once the genes were identified, BenevolentAI researchers could pinpoint the way that existing drugs targeted the genes, visualizing the process through a kind of digital flow chart, and eventually settled on baricitinib.

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