Microsoft supports Covid-19 global research

Microsoft supports Covid-19 global research
Azure cloud and machine learning capabilities could help organisations understand the virus

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Microsoft is supporting global research efforts to understand and share information regarding Covid-19 through the Microsoft Azure cloud and the company’s machine learning capabilities. 

According to a recent Microsoft news story, Canadian organisation DNAstack has launched its Covid-19 Beacon on Microsoft Azure to enable scientific and medical professionals to share knowledge about the genetics of the virus in real time.

“There is an urgent need to respond to this virus in a coordinated way and we urge researchers and clinicians worldwide to openly share genetic and other biological data to fight Covid-19,” said Marc Fiume, CEO of DNAstack. “What we know about the virus is changing hourly as researchers and clinicians accumulate and analyse data.” 

Researchers can use the solution to discover sequences with specific genetic mutations and map their geographic and evolutionary origins. According to the news story, “sharing genomic information over a cloud-based global network has the potential to improve our knowledge at a speed and scale that isn’t otherwise possible and inform new ways to fight the virus.” 

Microsoft and its partner Adaptive Biotechnologies will also make further efforts to study Covid-19 by extending their collaborative work in mapping immune responses to diseases. 

“We can improve our collective understanding of Covid-19 by decoding the immune system’s response to the virus and the disease patterns that can be inferred from studying these data at the population level,” said Chad Robins, CEO of Adaptive Biotechnologies. “Immune response data may enable detection of the virus in infected people not showing symptoms and improve triaging of newly diagnosed patients.”

To generate immune response data, Adaptive will collect blood samples from individuals diagnosed with or recovered from Covid-19 in a virtual clinical trial managed by Covance. The initiative will then use Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities and the Azure cloud platform to improve the accuracy of the immune response signature which will be updated online in real time as more trial samples are sequenced from the study. 

“The solution to Covid-19 is not likely going to come from one person, one company or one country,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of artificial intelligence and research at Microsoft. “This is a global issue and it will be a global effort to solve it.”

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