The IT services providers are helping governments as well as drug developers identify new molecules to combat the pandemic, create simulations on how the virus spreads and build digital tools for clinical trials.
For instance, scientists at TCS Innovation Labs in Hyderabad are using artificial intelligence (AI) to find new molecules to target the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2, as the virus is known. The lab has identified nearly 30 candidates from existing molecules that could potentially be used as drugs. It is also collaborating with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to test and synthesise chemical compounds that can lead to new drug development.
“The collaboration between TCS and CSIR is a standing example of public-private partnership in tackling a problem of national importance,” said Ananth Krishnan, chief technology officer of TCS. “De-novo drug candidate design is the first step in a long sequence of steps to find a cure to (the) Covid-19 (pandemic),” he added.
According to TCS, the use of AI has reduced the initial drug design process from years to a few days. Not only have these firms been working as technology partners, they have also deployed software engineers, data scientists and medical experts to find ways to stop the spread of the pandemic.
Cognizant is working with clients to improve the supply chain in order to make ventilators and other medical devices and manage clinical data for drug trials for a pharma and biotechnology company.
Ramkumar Ramamoorthy, chairman and MD, Cognizant India said the company’s work in developing life-saving technologies will “directly impact the trajectory of this pandemic”.
“We are delivering critical services to a life sciences supplier for fast-tracking Covid-19 diagnostic kits, providing essential support to a global leader in medical devices that produces much-needed Covid-19 ventilators and other devices. Our work with a leading biotechnology firm is helping to expedite clinical Covid-19 trials and supporting a compassionate use portal for healthcare professionals,” Ramamoorthy said.
Mid-tier IT services provider Persistent Systems is helping Biocomplexity Institute, a research organisation specialising in bioinformatics at the University of Virginia, to identify patterns that can help predict the spread of the virus.
The institute’s disease simulation platform has been used to study the spread of diseases like Ebola in the past. In January, this platform was improved upon to make projections for the Covid-19 outbreak. “In case of Covid-19, the numbers are quite high. For instance, one person is likely to affect four people and it may not immediately be known. So, all these models and parameters need to be adjusted depending on the context. Once you get the model with the parameters, you have to validate it with how they are behaving in real life,” said Anand Deshpande, chairman of Persistent Systems.