Protecting Canadians by Predicting the Evolution of COVID-19
Preparing for the second COVID-19 wave with AI predictions of virus changes.
Updated March 31, 2023
Like global pandemics of the past, we are in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19 in Canada and around the world. Mutations of the virus are prevalent, similar to the way new variants of the influenza virus emerge and spread every winter.
Changes in the virus structure bring changes in how the virus can be detected and treated in patients and slowed or stopped from spreading.
How We Are Solving It
Predicting those changes is the goal of the Protecting Canadians by Predicting the Evolution of COVID-19 project led by Terramera and bringing together the University of British Columbia, Menten AI, Microsoft, and ProMIS Neurosciences.
Massive amounts of computing power is being used to help unlock possible mutations of the virus. A combination of artificial intelligence and computer modelling is forecasting potential changes in the virus and developing detailed knowledge of possible virus structures.
The work will zero in on one part of the coronavirus – the viral spike protein. A coronavirus invades a healthy cell via these spikes, which vary between different coronaviruses.
This virtual work gives researchers a real-life head start in developing therapeutics and vaccines that would treat patients or provide immunity to the mutated version of COVID-19, and develop the antibody tests to determine new cases and make contact tracing possible.
Solutions will help health authorities prepare for future outbreaks and better protect the health and safety of Canadians.
This project brought together a select group of world-class artificial intelligence, computer modelling, and structural biology researchers to forecast changes to the COVID-19 virus to identify ways to get ahead of viral evolution to ensure availability of effective vaccines. Whereas initial vaccine work focused on predicting likely mutants through structural biology on the “spike” protein, the project team pivoted to targeting regions unlikely to mutate. Monitoring of the evolution of studied variants was used to estimate the potential efficacy and robustness of various therapeutics, with an eye towards developing a “universal” vaccine capable of providing immunity to many viruses within a single betacoronavirus family.
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