It has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic took a turn for the worse, impacting global economies. From the first time the outbreak was identified to now when vaccines against the virus are already being tested and rolled out, we have surely achieved a remarkable feat. We now need to accelerate vaccine development to achieve a similar breakthrough and curb the spread of the virus. 

Can artificial intelligence (AI) play a role in accelerating and improving the efficiency and speed of vaccine development and distribution? 

This blog explores the prominent role of AI and other advanced technologies in mitigating the COVID-19 crisis and improving vaccine production.  

Stages Of Vaccine Development & The Role Of AI 

From development to production, the development of a vaccine includes key stages that are necessary to ensure that the resultant vaccine is efficient and poses minimal risk to humans. With new strains of COVID-19, the AI vaccine development process is a priority for the healthcare and life sciences industry.

Here’s how the vaccine development process works with AI, adding huge value at each stage – 

1. Pre-Clinical/Exploratory: Initial phase of drug discovery involves a filtering process to narrow down the best possible treatment for the virus and involves research and analysis of several samples to judge the best immune response. AI can help process vast amounts of data in this phase, with significantly higher accuracy compared to manual detection.  The entire process can thus be accelerated and research can conduct trials and analysis of complex human data in a shorter time span, greatly improving the time it takes to go to the next process.

2. Clinical Development & Trials: Once the suitable treatment is identified, the process of clinical tests can begin. These tests have to take into account the reaction of the vaccine for a range of patients, with different factors like age, prior medical history, and other risks.  

Deep learning algorithms can help in the clinical development and detect patterns in the data, allowing potential vaccines to be more accurate in fighting the virus and pose a lower risk for patients. 

3. Regulatory Approvals & Reviews: After the clinical trials, the vaccine needs to go through approval from the government and international healthcare regulators. Combining AI and sensor-based technologies, vaccine manufacturers can provide granular data to the regulatory bodies, making the process of production faster and easier. 

4. Manufacturing & Quality Control: Any virus, over a duration, tends to develop mutations, getting stronger and posing a risk to a wider group of humans. The only way to contain the virus from spreading before it mutates to become stronger is to act faster and deliver vaccinations to a larger population. AI and robotic automation can help make the manufacturing process a lot faster since repetitive tasks can be performed with higher speed and efficiency with AI. 

AI In Healthcare: Need For Speed In Times Of Crisis

The world is focused on the COVID-19 vaccination, but there are other viruses that can also pose potential threats. Policymakers and healthcare regulators have realized that speed is the most important factor when it comes to managing a pandemic on a global scale. 

AI in healthcare development has always played a prominent role, and with more advanced deep-learning technologies being adopted in medical research and analysis, the future will see even greater avenues for AI to pave the path forward.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft is famously quoted for noticing the need for innovation in curbing future epidemics. As per Gates, “The Ebola epidemic showed me that we are not ready for a serious epidemic, an epidemic that would be more infectious and would spread faster than Ebola did”.  

Early detection and faster response to any potential threats can help save millions of lives, and with healthcare systems realizing the need for cost-effective and productive measures to manage future epidemics, the prominence of AI is surely going to increase!

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