Combining cloud-connected supercomputers, AI and deep learning, the platform fosters global collaboration to cut research time and mundane processes.

To facilitate COVID-19 drug discovery effort globally, a free AI Virtual Screening Service for COVID-19 has been launched by the Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI).

The institute is the digital technology and intelligence backbone of the Alibaba Group. The free and web-based research engine that it launched will provide researchers with an AI-powered tool for virtual screening computation. As a result of Alibaba Cloud’s high-performance computing (HPC) resources and GHDDI’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, the computation process is accelerated exponentially. The tool is powerful enough to support the prediction of SARS-CoV2-relevant effects of any drug under testing, with just one click. Said Dr Lurong Pan, Senior Investigator, AI platform lead, GHDDI: ““The high-performance computing power has significantly enhanced our drug discovery process by speeding up molecular docking and deep leaning computations, which may shorten the time needed to find a cure. As we are racing against time… leveraging AI and cloud computing in the research process (will) give us a better chance to save more lives.”

Joining supercomputer power with the Cloud

The new portal also provides real-time statistical analysis of COVID-19 global research progress, with daily automatic updates, powered by a natural language processing AI engine. This AI engine can generate a report that covers over 1,000 current worldwide clinical trials of 840 small molecule drugs, 306 biologics and 84 vaccines (as of 7/22/2020) against COVID-19 and hundreds of anti-SARS-CoV2 active compounds from in vitro experiments by research groups from all over the world.

Supercomputers, when connected via the cloud, can be combined together to perform large scale computations that normally would take decades on lesser systems. Said Dr He Wanqing, Director of Alibaba Cloud HPC, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence: “We believe technology and research institutions should work hand in hand in order to tackle the pandemic. Global research institutions such as GHDDI are crucial to finding long-term solutions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, (and are) committed to offering our leading technology such as HPC resources free of charge to support the good cause.”

GHDDI has so far received 130 research applications worldwide, and partnered with 10 research institutions to investigate 9,255 antiviral substances, 256 anti-corona active small molecules and biological agents, and 18 high-potential drug candidates recommended via AI-algorithms through data mining from historical records.