Army Research Institute, SwRI Partner on COVID-19 Treatment R&D Initiative


The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research partnered with Southwest Research Institute in Texas to utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning and high-performance computing to detect compounds that could target the novel coronavirus, Nextgov reported Thursday.

WRAIR's Experimental Therapeutics Branch and SwRI applied the latter's AI-based approach to identifying molecules that can bind with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and prevent its attachment to cells.

The partnership also worked with researchers for the Department of Defense's HPC Modernization Program to deploy supercomputers capable of rapidly screening large amounts of compounds with COVID-19 drug treatment potential.

Maj. Brandon Pybus, director of WRAIR's experimental therapeutics unit, said his team accomplished a rapid scan of 41M compounds and downselected 13 for further assessment.

“What we saw is that“”like we had hoped“”it did really enrich the hit rate, which shaved a tremendous amount of time, years, off the front end of the drug discovery development,“ Pybus told the publication.

Pybus added that it took “a whole-of-government" approach for the research and development effort and that the team is “very open“ to collaborations that would further quicken the discovery of possible COVID-19 treatment options.

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