Director of the National University of Singapore’s Institute for Digital Medicine Professor Dean Ho and his team used an AI platform to develop a cocktail of locally-available and orally-taken drugs effective against COVID-19. Along with live trials, local doctors and scientists were able to test a drug concoction that was said to be effective against several variants of the disease–including the dreaded Delta.
What did they use an AI for to develop the anti-COVID-19 medicine?
A report from The Straits Times said that Dr. Ho and his team were able to use an AI platform called IDentif.AI to determine the correct dosage of several drugs that were considered as good candidates in stopping COVID-19 and its variants.
DSO National Laboratories helped with the set-up of the platform last April.
The platform was able to identify remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir, as possible drugs that could combat COVID-19. But due to the fact that some of those drugs needed to be given intravenously, home use for mild cases wasn’t possible with those treatments.
So Dr. Ho and his team concentrated on medicines that could be bought locally and taken orally. Their efforts with the platform yielded drugs from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutic. The medicines were the latter’s novel antiviral drug, molnupiravir, combined with baricitinib, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Dr. Ho said, “This is especially timely as Singapore moves towards an endemic Covid-19 situation, so we are looking for combination therapies that can eventually be given to patients with mild illness who are recovering at home, or in community care facilities.”
Who helped develop the drug?
Groups of scientists and doctors came together to decide which drugs to be used on the platform. They were able to narrow down the selection to 12 drugs, which included antiviral drugs and even cancer medicines. They were able to then identify the combination of molnupiravir and baricitinib as having great potential in fighting COVID-19.
The experts cautioned, however, that without clinical trials, there is no conclusive evidence that the drugs are effective in all phases of COVID-19.
‘Molnupiravir effective on its own’
“Dr. Conrad Chan, laboratory director (Applied Molecular Technology Laboratory) at the Defence Medical & Environmental Research Institute from DSO, said molnupiravir on its own was effective against the Sars-CoV-2 virus as well as the Beta and Delta variants.” said the same report.
Another report from Forbes said that this particular drug was developed in the 2000s against SARS-CoV and MERS. This drug in particular responds well against viruses like SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 which are RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.
The team said that the drug may be an effective ‘backbone drug’ for other combinations since it stops the part of the virus that copies its genetical material–which is consistent across all the COVID-19 variants.
The team was said to be looking for candidates for clinical trials for the drug combinations. The report cautioned, however, that the drugs may reduce viral load in the patient but may not slow or stop the progression of the disease.