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Chinese tech giants have opened their AI platforms to scientists fighting coronavirus.

What’s new: Alibaba Cloud and Baidu are offering a powerful weapon to life-science researchers working to stop the spread of the illness officially known as Covid-19: free access to their computing horsepower and tools.

How it works: The companies have a variety of resources to support tasks like gene sequencing, protein screening, and drug development.

  • Alibaba Cloud is providing access to its computing network as well as AI-driven drug discovery tools, datasets from earlier efforts to find drugs to combat SARS and MERS, and libraries of compounds. Researchers can apply by emailing Alibaba Cloud.
  • In collaboration with Beijing’s Global Health Drug Discovery Institute, Alibaba Cloud is developing a platform to aggregate and distribute coronavirus-related information.
  • Baidu offers LinearFold, a tool developed in collaboration with Oregon State University and the University of Rochester that rapidly sequences RNA.

Behind the news: Scientists worldwide are turning to AI to help control the outbreak. An effort led by Harvard Medical School is tracking the disease by mining social media posts. UK researchers used AI to explore properties of an existing drug that could be useful for treating the virus. Meanwhile, a U.S. company is using an algorithm to design molecules that could halt the bug’s ability to replicate.

Why it matters: The virus had infected nearly 45,000 people and killed more than 1,100 at press time.

We’re thinking: Donating compute, tools, and data to scientists fighting infectious diseases is a great idea. We hope other tech companies will pitch in.


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