As of this morning – Wednesday May 6 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 194,990 with 29,427 deaths.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) to try to fast-track a test to allow mass screening for COVID-19, after the £140,000 project was approved by the Scottish government.
Highlighting the need for new testing options, the researchers note that those in existence can be unreliable while some are not suited to rapid, mass deployment.
The University of Aberdeen team will work with Vertebrate Antibodies (VAL) using the latter’s AI technology to identify the specific elements of the virus that trigger the body’s defence systems.
It’s hoped this approach might pave the way for development of a sensitive test that could be used for ‘mass screening of NHS staff/keyworkers, identification of high-risk patients/carriers, provide data on the prevalence of COVID-19, surveillance and in the future allow targeted vaccination programmes’.
The Scottish government is streaming £101,903 into the project, which is also being supported by a £38,000 in kind contribution from VAL – a biotech spinout company from the University of Aberdeen specialising in the design and production of sensitive and selective antibodies against multiple targets.
“By working with VAL’s team and using their established expertise in antibody design and production enhanced by harnessing artificial intelligence, we hope to create a diagnostic test that can quickly and effectively identify COVID-19 in individuals,” said lead investigator, Professor Mirela Delibegovic from the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen.
“By employing this innovative approach, we hope to achieve high-throughput capacity in a proven format that will enable mass testing which could benefit key workers and the most vulnerable members of society.”