The collaboration between Prof. Angshul Majumdar of IIIT Delhi and Prof. Emilie Chouzenoux of INRIA, Saclay, Paris, to harness the power of deep learning using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen drugs that have the potential to treat COVID-19 infections, has corroborated the use of current treatments. “This is the first of a kind AI powered study for antiviral selection”, says Prof. Majumdar.
“Our deep learning AI model, DeepVir, selects Chloroquine, Remdesivir, Umifenovir, Favipiravir and Ribavarin. All of them are undergoing clinical trials for treating COVID-19 infections in multiple centers around the globe,” he added. Furthermore, Prof. Chouzenoux boosted DeepVir with a state-of-the-art optimization approach based on hybrid proximal alternating minimization (HyPALM); in short “it is Deep Learning on steroids” – she explains.
In scientific literature this is called ‘drug repositioning’. Current approaches are based on rudimentary models like network diffusion, similarity matching, matrix factorization, classification etc. “In contrast, our approach (DeepVir), integrates the power of deep representation learning with biological insights via graphical regularization.”
Prof. Majumdar, who has been leading the study from the Indian side says, “the power of DeepVir lies in the uncanny accuracy with which it can select clinically relevant drugs.”
The database of viruses and antivirals is curated from https://www.drugbank.ca/ . Dr. Aanchal Mongia, who just finished her PhD, says, “since the goal is to combat novel coronavirus infections, we prune the dataset to include only RNA viruses.” Dr. Mongia looked at two different types of meta information for viruses and antivirals. She considered the genomic structure of the virus and the symptoms they cause in human beings; regarding the antivirals she looked at their chemical structure and mechanism of action.
The aforesaid meta information along with known associations between viruses and antiviruses are fed into the graphical deep learning model – DeepVir. Miss Stuti Jain, MTech student at IIIT Delhi helped Dr. Mongia in the experiments.