Times of stress are also times of significant innovation. Economic and bureaucratic barriers are brought down in favor of rapid solutions. It’s too early to tell what breakthroughs will come of this, but technology is playing an enormous part in our search for solutions.
Artificial intelligence is beefing up its skills to find a drug to combat the coronavirus, COVID-19. Pulling from decades of protein structure research, Google’s DeepMind set to work on puzzling out the most likely proteins that could make up the virus, then made their findings available to the public. BenevolentAI is compiling data on viable drug treatments to combat the virus. They use neural networks and 3D models to better understand the molecular structure of proteins.
We all know there’s a woeful lack of testing and the turn-around time on a result can take weeks, unless you have money and a name in lights. Another AI, Infervision, is helping diagnose viral pneumonia cases with a single CT chest scan. Reducing the time to diagnose and prioritize patients is a life saver. AI is also used in tracking and forecasting by companies like BlueDot. Understanding where the virus is moving and how is essential to providing a fast and accurate response by governments and sending supplies to the places that need it the most.
Emphasis is also on relieving the burden in the healthcare system. They need supplies, and personnel to save lives, but there’s the logistical side as well. With busy hospitals, especially in the cluster that is our healthcare system, dealing with logistics is overwhelming and increases person-to-person contact. Blockchain platforms are working to streamline the intake system and keep healthcare workers safe.
On the equipment side, Sonovia is developing antimicrobial textiles for healthcare workers. This isn’t just any fabric, it uses a nano-coating that actively destroys bacteria instead of only providing a physical barrier. Robots are chipping in, cleaning and sterilizing equipment so humans don’t come in contact with compromised surfaces and it also frees up their time for other tasks. Dyson developed a new ventilator in ten days that is quick to manufacture at a high volume.
It’s amazing what we can do in a crisis, even as we see some aspects lag behind others are stepping up to fill the gap as best they can. Only time will tell how this phase in our history will play out and how it defines us.