In late January, researchers at BenevolentAI, an artificial intelligence startup in central London, turned their attention to the coronavirus.
Within two days, using technologies that can scour scientific literature related to the virus, they pinpointed a possible treatment with speed that surprised both the company that makes the drug and many doctors who had spent years exploring its effect on other viruses.
Called baricitinib, the drug was designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although many questions hang over its potential use as a coronavirus treatment, it will soon be tested in an accelerated clinical trial with the National Institutes of Health. It is also being studied in Canada, Italy and other countries.
The specialists at BenevolentAI are among many AI researchers and data scientists around the world who have turned their attention to the coronavirus, hoping they can accelerate efforts to understand how it is spreading, treat people who have it and find a vaccine.