‘Trial by fire’: How COVID-19 is changing the biotech industry’s relationship with artificial intelligence

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Credit: Argonne National Laboratory
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AI is currently being used by many companies to identify and screen existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19, aid clinical trials, sift through trial data, and scour through patient electronic medical records (EMRs). The power of AI in COVID-19 is that it is being used to generate actionable information—some of which would be impossible without AI—much more quickly than before.

The rapid adoption of AI will provide evidence for what works—and what doesn’t—for health applications. “It’s ‘trial by fire’ because you’re deploying AI for a new disease in new environments—healthcare systems that may not have been previous users of AI—at a pace that tests not only the accuracy of the AI software, but also its ability to handle rapidly increasing volumes of medical data,” says [Qure.ai’s Pooja] Rao. “If it passes this test, AI could well be here to stay.”

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But Stanford’s [Russ] Altman cautions that while AI is a contributor to advances in treating COVID-19, it’s not the star of the show, merely a piece of the technology puzzle. “When we get through this, we will look back and see AI did act as a team member with the other technologies,” [Altman said.]

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