IIIT-Delhi Develops Artificial Intelligence Model to Repurpose Existing Drugs to Treat Covid-19

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The Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-Delhi) on Sunday said it has developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model for drug repositioning in the treatment of Covid-19.

This means that instead of manually going through every available drug and checking its effectiveness against Covid-19 (which is a painstakingly long process), one can now rely on AI to speed things up and find us the drugs which have the highest probability of success against the disease.

Some well-known examples of repositioned drugs are Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Dexamethasone, Remdesivir, Avifavir/Favipiravir etc.

Sime lesser-known drugs that are on trial include Ribavirin, Umifenovir, Sofosbuvir and several antiretrovirals.

The database of drugs (drugbank.ca) lists more than 100 approved antivirals. Trying out all of them in clinical trials is not possible; it will be expensive both financially and in terms of time – a luxury we cannot afford.

"Therefore, we propose to use AI to prune this massive database and select a handful (5 to 10) of drugs that have better chances of succeeding. This would allow more concerted effort/trials on this handful of prospective treatment regimes," IIIT Delhi said in a statement.

In simple terms, the AI model computes the similarity between the chemical structures of the drugs and the similarity between the genomic structures of existing viruses and the novel Coronavirus.

The model then looks at the historical information about the efficacy of the drugs on different viruses; it selects similar drugs (based on chemical structure) that have been successful in treating viruses that have a genomic structure close to that of the novel Coronavirus.

The AI model that could prove to be an indispensable tool in the battle against Covid-19 has been the result of a collaboration between IIIT Delhi, IPGME&R Kolkata and INRIA, Saclay, Paris, France.