From falling stocks leading millions of people towards unemployment to the uncontrollable deaths of innocent lives, the pandemic has brought the world to its knees. Similar occurrences such as the Spanish Flu (1918) or the Swine Flu (2009), have entirely altered the course of governments, economics, and businesses, changing the sequence of history. Despite the austerity present throughout each pandemic, all of them have inspired many positive changes that would not have been possible without innovation. Since the outbreak, innovation has been taking place in all sectors, from testing to supply chains and ventilator production to financial and other institutions working together to share research and coordinate investments.
Expert bodies all around the world have united to fight against the virus. A competition called the Virtual Hackathon had been held by the regional government of Madrid aiming to find technological solutions to the damages caused by COVID-19. The outcome has led to innovative solutions such as providing digital currencies to compensate the volunteers for their contribution to the pandemic.
The GovLab, in affiliation with the UNY, and the Spanish State Ministry for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence have signed an appeal urging big data professionals worldwide to pool resources and data related to the pandemic to facilitate in observing the efficiency of inhibition procedures.
Mastercard, the Gates Foundation, and Wellcome have teamed up with WHO, governmental organizations, regulators, and the private sector to launch the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator to remove barriers to vaccine development. This initiative comes with $125 million in funding to support the fast-tracking of the evaluation of drugs and therapies that can be used to treat the patients.
The European Commission (EIC) has offered an application with a budget of €164 million, to startups with innovative solutions that could be useful in tackling different aspects of the virus. For example, the Norwegian project EpiShuttle is working on creating specialized individual isolation units.
A website development company, 27 Pilots, has set up a free website Startups against Corona where large companies publish problems they face during the pandemic, and startups can suggest innovative, fast-to-implement, and feasible solutions in response.
AI FACILITATING CURE
Using AI to look at patterns from similar viruses and detect the attributes to look for in building a new vaccine reduces the risks for doctors to come up with new a vaccine by a higher probability. Moreover, AI can predict the transfer spots around the world allowing health officials to predict how the virus is going to spread based on environmental conditions, access to healthcare, and the way it is transmitted.
Experts at The Smart Cube reveal that AI-empowered algorithms can help manage the adverse symptoms caused by a coronavirus. Lately, immunotherapy and Gene therapy empowered through AI algorithms such as Boltzmann machines have stronger evidence of treating such diseases that stimulate the body’s immunity systems.
BlueDot, the mastermind of Kamran Khan, who is an infectious disease physician and professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto uses NLP and ML to process vast amounts of unstructured text data, in 65 languages, to track outbreaks of over 100 different diseases, every 15 minutes around the clock. The data reliefs the health experts from spending their time and energy gathering and organizing information.
The experts at DataRobot believe that their AI Technology could be used to predict the number of potential new cases by area and which types of populations will be at risk the most. This could be used to warn travelers so that vulnerable populations can wear proper medical masks while traveling.
IPsoft provides conversational computing to engage with a patient and gather information, or reversely, provide information based upon plans that are modified based on situational variations. Moreover, the data that is being collected from multiple sources can help to combat a future outbreak more effectively.
FACILITATING NEW INVENTIONS
There was a high shortage of ventilators in the ICU that led to the invention of The COVID Emergency Ventilator by Dr. Rhys Thomas in just three days. The machine does not only help patients to breathe but also cleans the room of viral particles by only supplying purified air to the patient. Although it will not replace an ICU ventilator, the majority of patients will not need intensive care if they are treated with this ventilator first. The machine allows the patient to self-care, releasing specialist nurses for other duties. A patient in Llanelli who was treated with the machine has now recovered well.
The Virus-killing Snood designed at the Menai Science Park kills more than 95% of any viruses. The working on the invention began in 2011 but it was developed in the last five weeks in response to the current pandemic. The hands-free door handle is another innovation of the same company that has a prototype arm which attaches to an existing door handle, with a crook to open the door. Anyone with a 3D printer may download the 3D design online for free to help out their local hospital and distribute it in their nearby public places.
The initiative Startups against Corona by 27 Pilots has led to the invention of LED lighting designed disinfectant for interior spaces with the flip of a switch as well as intelligent air purifiers to control and clean personal air space.
IN A NUTSHELL
The race to ultimately find a vaccine is on, although estimates currently sit at around 18 months to 2 years before one can be offered on a global scale. Despite several companies across the world already claiming to have developed a viable vaccine, human trials and safety guarantees take time. Though they may not represent a cure, it is hoped that finding a tried and tested solution for treating coronavirus could alleviate symptoms and improve patient outcomes. While it is challenging to foresee what this present situation holds, the inventiveness of the human race and its persistent innovative essence, with no hesitation, will prevail once again.