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M. Pivoda 25.5.2020 20:48
The magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic will largely depend on how quickly safe and effective vaccines and treatments can be developed and tested. Many assume a widely available vaccine is years away, if ever. Others believe that a 12- to 18-month development cycle is a given. Our best bet to reduce even that record-breaking timeline is by using artificial intelligence.
The problem is twofold: discovering the right set of molecules among billions of possibilities, and then waiting for clinical trials. These processes ordinarily take several years, but AI holds the key to radically shortening both. This is where combining AI with biotechnology is headed, and within several years all vaccine and medication development could be done this way. We can already shorten the development time of a Covid-19 vaccine using this method.
Although a human trial of a vaccine or other treatment is regarded as necessary today before widespread use is approved, even large-scale trials are very imperfect, time-consuming, and expensive. A human doctor may come up with a few dozen drugs that may treat a disease. The actual number of theoretical drug possibilities is in the trillions. The current method for testing these few treatments is to organize a few hundred human subjects and then test them over about a year and a half, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Very often, the first several solutions tested on humans are not ideal and lead to other solutions that also take a few years to develop and test. We are literally stuck, watching people succumb to a disease for years while only a few possible solutions are tested. Not much can be advanced until those results are available.
We are seeing the beginnings of a profound paradigm shift in health technology. AI simulations have the potential to test all of the trillions of possibilities with tens of thousands of (simulated) patients for a (simulated) period of years, and do all of this in a matter of hours or days.