Corona-AI project uses smartphone processing power to search for COVID-19 treatments

Shane McGlaun  Apr 8, 2020, 7:10 am CDT

Corona-AI project uses smartphone processing power to search for COVID-19 treatments

Imperial College London researchers have announced they are teaming up the Vodafone Foundation on the “Corona-AI” project that will use the DreamLab app to take advantage of smartphone computing power while device owners sleep. The app is already being used to help find possible cancer drugs, and the Corona-AI project hopes to use the idle processing power of smartphones to find new treatments for coronavirus/COVID-19.

Researchers on the project say that data generated from the calculations will help the scientists to identify existing drugs and food-based molecules that have antiviral properties. Ultimately the team hopes to discover tailored treatments that could be developed to help cure patients with COVID-19. The app works by creating a network of smartphones that are turned into a virtual supercomputer.

The virtual supercomputer can process billions of calculations, all without disclosing or collecting user location data. The team behind the Corona-AI project is clear that the app they are using neither downloads or processes any personal data from the user’s device. The team says that in the long run, the DreamLab app and Corona-AI project could speed up access to effective drugs and enable tailored treatments against the highly infectious disease.

New treatments to fight COVID-19 are urgently needed around the globe today, and research lead Dr. Kirill Veselkov from Imperial College London says that there are existing drugs that might work to treat COVID-19. If found, those drugs are already known to be safe to use and could potentially be used to treat people quickly.

Veselkov says that the analysis of existing drugs is difficult and complicated. Using AI to find out which molecule or combinations of molecules might disrupt the virus when it’s inside the body could be a great help in treating the disease. The catch is that the sort workload requires a considerable amount of computing power, which DreamLab offers to allow the work to be done in a short timeframe.

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