Vendors hyping AI vs. COVID, but keep eyes open for real results

The rate at which healthcare vendors have begun marketing products and services with both “AI” and “COVID-19” in their communications may be expanding as quickly as did the virus itself before mitigation efforts kicked in.

That doesn’t mean the hype is always all there is.

BBC technology reporter Jane Wakefield has taken note, putting together a short list of offerings that strike her as highly promising in both the U.K. and the U.S.

Companies that caught her eye from her homeland include Oxford-based Exscientia, which won the race to put an AI-discovered drug into human trial, and Healx, a Cambridge company that has repurposed an existing AI system to find drugs for rare diseases.

In the U.S., Schipher Medicine is working with Harvard, Stanford and Northeastern to similarly search for drugs with AI to repurpose for the war on coronavirus.

In more normal times, getting all those players to work together would take “a year of paperwork,” Schipher CEO Alif Saleh tells the Beeb. But in the heat of the pandemic, “everyone dropped everything” and significantly moved the work forward in only three weeks.

“Already, their research has yielded surprising results,” Wakefield writes. These include “the suggestion the virus may invade brain tissues, which may explain why some people lose their sense of taste or smell, and the prediction it may also attack the reproductive system of both men and women.”

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