Articles
Five Tech Companies Helping to Combat COVID-19
July 13, 2020

Earlier this year, a team from Altran and frog (our parent company and sister company, respectively) was selected as one (of three) winners in IBM’s “Call for Code” Global Challenge to combat COVID-19. 

In a video on IBM’s website, IBM’s Bob Lord, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton and Anthem recognized the work of our team, along with the other winning teams. Our team’s winning submission was the “Are You Well?” app, a comprehensive medical assistance system that can reduce the stress on over-taxed medical systems.

The app leverages a global dashboard that assigns cases a high, medium, or low level of risk based on thresholds set by healthcare providers. The app connects end users with medical professionals who can use the risk-level information to prioritize cases and offer care in a safe manner.

The two other winners were CovidImpact, a predictive assessment tool created by a global team that came together at the University of British Columbia, and Safe Queue, a community-driven mobile app that enables safer entry at shopping centers, small businesses, polling places and other locations. Safe Queue was created by a single developer in Los Angeles.

In this post, I’ll profile five other technology companies helping to combat COVID-19.

BenevolentAI Uses AI to Identify a Potential COVID-19 Treatment

London-based BenevolentAI uses artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate the development of new drugs. 

In January 2020, the company turned its AI technology on scientific documents related to the coronavirus.

The technology uses a relatively new AI method called universal language model to read and understand the language of scientific documents (note: for further reading on the AI method, consult the paper “Universal Language Model Fine-tuning for Text Classification” by Jeremy Howard and Sebastian Ruder).

BenevolentAI’s technology scanned the documents for clues on how biological processes influence the coronavirus. The team sought to identify existing drugs that could help treat COVID-19. Peter Richardson, BenevolentAI’s vice president of pharmacology identified a number of potential drugs, then looked to narrow down the possibilities.

According to an article at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, “Richardson’s goal was to identify drugs that were anti-inflammatory and had the potential for viral inhibition. This narrowed the candidates to a pair of molecules, of which baricitnib was viewed as the most promising, based on affinity and its clearance from the body.”

Baricitinib is an approved drug manufactured by Eli Lilly under the brand name Olumiant. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. After reviewing research published by BenevolentAI in a medical journal, Eli Lilly announced a clinical trial with the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The late stage phase 3 clinical trial is studying the efficacy and safety of baricitinib as a treatment for patients with serious COVID-19 infections.

Healx Uses AI to Find COVID-19 Combination Therapies

Healx logo

Healx, headquartered in Cambridge, UK, is a biotechnology company that accelerates the discovery and development of rare disease treatments. 

An article in the Cambridge Independent notes that its Healnet platform will ingest biomedical data sources from around the world to analyze “eight million possible pairs of approved therapies and 10.5 billion potential drug triples, based on the 4,000 approved medicines on the market.”

Unlike BenevolentAI, which seeks to identify individual drugs, the Healnet platform seeks to find drug combinations to treat COVID-19 patients. Healnet can analyze all possible combinations of the 4,000+ approved drugs on the market to generate success predictions using data from multiple sources.

An InformationAge article quotes Dr. David Brown, Co-Founder and Chairman, Healx: “Our AI is able to combine 2-3 existing drugs to formulate the most effective treatment. This approach ensures that any potential treatments we identify can be used by clinicians to help patients very quickly.”

The Open Source C-19 Index from ClosedLoop.ai

ClosedLoop.ai logo

ClosedLoop.a is a healthcare data science platform headquartered in Austin, Texas. The platform makes it easy and affordable for healthcare organizations to use data science to improve quality and reduce costs. 

In March 2020, the company announced the C-19 Index, an open source, AI-based predictive model that identifies people who are likely to have a heightened vulnerability to severe complications from COVID-19. 

According to a press release announcing the index, “ClosedLoop aims to distribute this tool as widely and quickly as possible while leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of the open source community to quickly improve the Index.”

The index is available for free on GitHub, the Google Cloud Marketplace, Amazon SageMaker and ClosedLoop’s HIPAA-compliant hosted platform. The index is based on medical claims data from more than two million elderly and disabled individuals. It considers a person’s medical history, chronic conditions, comorbidities, prior adverse events, recent medical treatments, functional limitations, and degree of frailty.

According to the company, healthcare organizations can use the index in several ways:

  • Identifying and targeting vulnerable individuals for outreach
  • Preparing and sharing resources such as food delivery, virtual worship, medicine deliveries, telehealth, regular check-ins etc.
  • Prioritizing resources as healthcare organizations prepare for shifts in demand 
  • Coordinating efforts with other organizations and agencies

Aetion Partners with the FDA to Advance Understanding of COVID-19

Headquartered in New York City, Aetion is a healthcare technology company that delivers real-world evidence for life sciences companies, payers, and regulatory agencies. 

In May 2020, Aetion announced a research collaboration agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use real-world data to advance the understanding of and response to COVID-19.

The research involves the analysis of novel data sources to understand the history of the disease, along with treatment and diagnostic patterns. According to an Aetion press release, “Aetion and the FDA will identify and analyze fit-for-purpose data sources to characterize COVID-19 patient populations and their medication use, identify risk factors for COVID-19-related complications, and contribute to the scientific evaluation of potential interventions.”

Aetion’s analytic platform will be used to ingest real-world data sources, facilitate the sharing of findings and produce actionable insights to serve patients.

COVID-19 Solution Framework from BioIQ

BioIQ is a healthcare engagement and clinical adherence technology platform company that is redefining the way payers, employers and consumers navigate and connect with the US healthcare system.

The company provides the BioIQ COVID-19 Solution for health plans, employers and regional government agencies to combat COVID-19.

BioIQ’s COVID-19 solution framework includes:

  • Daily symptom and exposure assessment
  • Contract tracing and notification
  • Testing platform
  • Active program design analytics

Over the past few months, BioIQ has made several announcements regarding new COVID-19 tests. Its two most recent announcements are from June 2020 and involve new tests in partnership with P23 Labs: