KEY POINTS

  • Coronavirus outbreak has been declared a global health emergency
  • Alibaba and Baidu are partnering with Chinese government to fight the virus
  • The companies are working on viral gene sequencing to track the virus

The Coronavirus is getting deadlier by the day and there is currently no cure in sight. At the time of writing, around 15,000 cases have been registered throughout the world. It has been declared a global health emergency and many countries have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan.

Scientists are working hard to find a cure for the deadly virus, and Chinese tech companies have decided to back them by providing their artificial intelligence (AI) tools to them. Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu are providing their gene sequencing AI tools to Chinese researchers to help them find a solution to the virus.

Alibaba is teaming up with the Beijing-based Global Health Drug Discovery Institute, to help create an open-source database for the virus.

The platform will not just be used for tracking the virus but also help speed up the research on sequencing/altering the gene of the virus. It is also working on protein screen and other prevention solutions.

Baidu – the country’s largest search engine has opened up the LinearFold algorithm, which predicts RNA protein behavior to research labs. It speeds up the virus detection mechanism.

“This new tool significantly speeds up the prediction time of a virus’s RNA secondary structure, potentially providing the research community with the opportunity to better focus their efforts on developing a deeper understanding of the virus and aid in vaccine creation. As an example of Linearfold’s efficiency, Baidu’s AI scientists have already applied it to the coronavirus, reducing prediction time from 55 minutes to 27 seconds,” the company stated to The Next Web.

U.S.-based tech companies and hospitals along with the Chinese tech giants are pitching in.

Healthmap.org is a health surveillance site that uses AI to analyze data from government reports, social media, news sites, etc.

AI, according to John Brownstein, a computational epidemiologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital, who is behind the site will help supplement public health officials’ efforts.

“We use machine learning to scrape all the information, classify it, tag it, and filter it — and then that information gets pushed to our colleagues at WHO that are looking at this information all day and making assessments,” Brownstein said. “There is still the challenge of parsing whether some of that information is meaningful or not,” he told Statnews.

Social media giant Facebook is fighting fake news about the virus. It is doing regular fact-checking using its independent third-party fact-checkers. Similarly, Twitter is taking down accounts that spread misinformation. Google has issued an SOS alert feature in partnership with the World Health Organization.

Alibaba is one of the world's most valuable companies Alibaba is one of the world's most valuable companies Photo: AFP / ALAIN JOCARD