How the technology industry responds to the global crisis of Covid-19 will be remembered for decades to come. Those vendors and thought leaders moving swiftly and applying technology to help solve problems will be remembered for their efforts. Whether it’s creating a mission critical app in 24 hours to help German citizens returning to the country, or providing organizations with access to cognitive data platforms to coordinate research between global scientists searching for a vaccine.
Three significant Covid-19 technology initiatives:
As members of the newly formed White House’s Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, Microsoft, IBM, AWS, Google Cloud, and HPE, among other government, industry, and academic leaders, are joining the new public/private consortium to tap into technology use cases in the coronavirus fight. As part of the group’s objectives, public cloud infrastructures will be leveraged to serve as the foundation for processing massive numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modeling which will help scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about Covid-19 in hours or days versus weeks or months.
Additional participants involved in projects leveraging supercomputing resources include The Department of Energy, The National Nuclear Security Administration, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, all groups which are lending supercomputers and expertise. A prominent example, IBM Summit, is an AI-enabled supercomputer able to run thousands of simulations to analyze which drug components are best suited to keep coronavirus from infecting host cells, with early research launched in January. Summit was first commissioned by the US Department of Energy in 2014 to tackle similar types of health issues.
In recent days a potentially mega blockchain initiative was launched by Oracle, IBM and others to integrate Covid-19 data from WHO and CDC. Start-up HACERA formed the blockchain platform called MiPasa whose objective of aggregating and reconciling data from various sources helps integrate data at scale for researchers and scientists.
The platform is based on the popular Hyperledger Fabric technology and involves multiple groups of healthcare professionals and application developers. Ideally such a project could be coupled with intelligent data management and integration platforms by technology providers. Most importantly at this critical juncture of a global pandemic, blockchain technology can provide researchers with a strong and reliable data platform in the form of a shared ledger establishing an autonomous and decentralized peer-to-peer network
As part of IBM’s Watson Health unit, IBM is making its IBM Clinical Development (ICD) SaaS data capture system available globally to national health agencies without charge for applicable clinical trials in support of accelerating the development of drugs to combat Covid-19.
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Tapping advanced analytics and automation, the system is designed to reduce the time and cost of clinical trials by centralizing and organizing clinical trial data. This includes providing access to trial data through a URL across IBM’s scalable data management platform. IBM offered the system earlier this year to Chinese health officials. ICD is several years old and used among well over 100 clinical research sites and organizations backed by pharma and biotech companies, including Cytel, Veristat, SciQuus Oncology, Abbott, and MedSource.
The World Health Organization’s Margaret Harris issued a call to action to the US industry last week: “You’ve got the best public health brains in the world. You’ve got people who can harness technology brilliantly. You’ve got people who can really think out of the box.’’
Apparently industry giants are listening.