IBM Research releases a new set of cloud- and artificial intelligence-based COVID-19 resources

Access to the online databases is free to qualified researchers and medical experts to help them identify a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus.

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IBM Research is making multiple free resources available to help healthcare researchers, doctors, and scientists around the world accelerate COVID-19 drug discovery. The resources can help with gathering insights, to applying the latest virus genomic information and identifying potential targets for treatments, to creating new drug molecule candidates, the company said in a statement.
 
Though some of the resources are still in exploratory stages, IBM is giving access to qualified researchers at no charge to aid the international scientific investigation of COVID-19.
 
The announcement follows IBM's launch of the US COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is harnessing massive computing power in the effort to help confront the coronavirus, the company said. 

Streamlining the search for information

Healthcare agencies and governments around the world have quickly amassed medical and other relevant data about the pandemic. And, there are already vast troves of medical research that could prove relevant to COVID-19, IBM said.
 
"Yet, as with any large volume of disparate data sources, it is difficult to efficiently aggregate and analyze that data in ways that can yield scientific insights," the company said.
 
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To help researchers access structured and unstructured data quickly, IBM has offered a cloud-based AI research resource that the company said has been trained on a corpus of thousands of scientific papers contained in the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), prepared by the White House and a coalition of research groups, and licensed databases from the DrugBank, Clinicaltrials.gov and GenBank.

 "This tool uses our advanced AI and allows researchers to pose specific queries to the collections of papers and to extract critical COVID-19 knowledge quickly," the company said. However, access to this resource will be granted only to qualified researchers, IBM said.

Aiding the hunt for treatments

The traditional drug discovery pipeline relies on a library of compounds that are screened, improved, and tested to determine safety and efficacy, IBM noted.

"In dealing with new pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, there is the potential to enhance the compound libraries with additional novel compounds," the company said. "To help address this need, IBM Research has recently created a new, AI-generative framework which can rapidly identify novel peptides, proteins, drug candidates and materials."

This AI technology has been applied against three COVID-19 targets to identify 3,000 new small molecules as potential COVID-19 therapeutic candidates, the company said. IBM is releasing these molecules under an open license, and researchers can study them via a new interactive molecular explorer tool to understand their characteristics and relationship to COVID-19 and identify candidates that might have desirable properties to be further pursued in drug development.
 
To streamline efforts to identify new treatments for COVID-19, IBM said it is also making the IBM Functional Genomics Platform available for free for the duration of the pandemic.
 
"Built to discover the molecular features in viral and bacterial genomes, this cloud-based repository and research tool includes genes, proteins and other molecular targets from sequenced viral and bacterial organisms in one place with connections pre-computed to help accelerate discovery of molecular targets required for drug design, test development and treatment," IBM said.

Select IBM collaborators from government agencies, academic institutions and other organizations already use this platform for bacterial genomic study, according to IBM. Now, those working on COVID-19 can request the IBM Functional Genomics Platform interface to explore the genomic features of the virus.

Drug and disease information

Clinicians and healthcare professionals on the frontlines of care will also have free access to hundreds of pieces of evidence-based, curated COVID-19 and infectious disease content from IBM Micromedex and EBSCO DynaMed, the company said.

These two decision support solutions will give users access to drug and disease information in a single and comprehensive search, according to IBM. Clinicians can also provide patients with consumer-friendly education handouts with relevant, actionable medical information, the company said.
 
IBM's Micromedex online reference databases provide medication information that is used by more than 4,500 hospitals and health systems worldwide, according to IBM.
 
"The scientific community is working hard to make important new discoveries relevant to the treatment of COVID-19, and we're hopeful that releasing these novel tools will help accelerate this global effort," the company said.
 
 "This work also outlines our long-term vision for the future of accelerated discovery, where multi-disciplinary scientists and clinicians work together to rapidly and effectively create next generation therapeutics, aided by novel AI-powered technologies."
 

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