Can AI speed up a cure for coronavirus? This Hong Kong start-up opens its resources to global drug firms for free

Ref: South China Morning Post
  • Artificial intelligence software start-up Insilico Medicine has partially opened up its database of drug compounds to global pharmaceutical companies in hopes of quickly finding a cure for the COVID-19 infection, reported the South China Morning Post.

  • "In the short term, repurposing existing molecules originally developed for other diseases such as HIV is the right strategy since their safety profile is already known," said CEO Alex Zhavoronkov.

  • "But those might not be the most ideal since they are designed for something else," he noted, adding "our approach is more long term, aiming for a dedicated molecule for that virus. When people learn to trust our algorithm, they will be willing to put resources on the molecules' synthesis and tests."

  • Zhavoronkov estimates it will take at least a year for an effective vaccine to be found, while it could take longer to develop drugs, even if their development is fast-tracked.

  • In September, Insilico published a research paper in Nature Biotechnology on fibrosis showing it could pick six novel drug compounds from thousands generated, and do preclinical tests on them as potential drug candidates for the disease in less than 50 days.