Oxford’s AI Will Screen 15,000 Drugs to Find Coronavirus Cure

An Oxford-based artificial intelligence firm is collaborating with a UK national science facility to screen over 15,000 drugs to test their effectiveness against COVID-19.

Drug discovery firm Existencia has obtained to a large bulk of drugs provided by the Scripps research institute in California which is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They will be working with the UK’s Diamond Light Source that harnesses the power of electrons to produce bright light that helps scientists study viruses.

Existencia hopes that these drugs can be repurposed to counter the epidemic within the next 6 months. The drugs will be tested on COVID-19 patients within this time and their availability in clinics around the world will depend on how quickly they can be manufactured. These drugs have been tested for human safety in clinical trials already.

Director of life sciences at the Diamond Light Source Prof David Stuart said:

The drugs we are testing have either been approved by the [US regulator] FDA for other diseases or have been extensively tested for human safety. By being able to repurpose existing molecules, we can save a lot of time in the drug discovery process, meaning a faster route to clinical trials, and potentially a treatment for patients.

The firm will be using biosensor technology to screen the drug molecules for their effectiveness against the coronavirus. They are hoping to get complete data sets within 6 to 8 weeks and the drugs will then be tested further to see if they can be used as treatment against COVID-19.

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