BioNTech and AI Startup Develop Tool to Predict High-Risk Coronavirus Variants

A new early warning system predicts the riskiest coronavirus variants from the genetic code and alerts health authorities and vaccine developers to potential risks months before the infection spreads, according to a study. I can.

Artificial intelligence-based program developed by BioNTech, a German biotech group behind major Covid-19 vaccines, and North African AI startup InstaDeep has identified more than 90% of the variant of concern, including the highly contagious strain Omicron, on average two months before being designated by the World Health Organization.

The results of the study show that the program can assess the risk of new variants. From these advanced proteins. According to the two companies, they will monitor their progress in “near real time” in a few minutes. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said the tool will be available for free.

“Early reporting of potential high-risk mutants is an effective tool to alert researchers, vaccine developers, health authorities and policy makers, and to address emerging concerns. We’ll give you more time, ”Sahin says.

Of the more than 70,000 mutants discovered between early October and late November, the variant most affected was the system on Omicron on the day its genomic sequence was first uploaded to the Gisaid global database at the end of the year. ‘last year. He said he had raised a red flag. the study, has not yet been peer-reviewed. That was three days before it was classified by the WHO as a variant of concern.

He was also able to report an alpha variant that spread rapidly in southern England last winter, 65 days before it was officially designated by the WHO.

“Over 10,000 new variant sequences are discovered every week, and human experts cannot handle complex data of this size,” said Karim Beguir, co-founder and CEO of UK-based InstaDeep. I am saying. “For the first time, high-risk variants can be detected on the fly, saving precious time for months. “

Most mutations in the Sars-Cov-2 genome are likely harmless, but minor changes in their genetic material can lead to more contagious mutations such as alpha, delta, and omicron. ..

Genome sequencing, a technology that tracks mutations in viral genetic material, is now an important surveillance tool in the fight against viruses.

Emma Hodcroft, evolutionary geneticist at the University of Bern, said early warning systems could prove to be “useful” for tracking future variants, but “we have provided them with these predictions. It is as good as the information you have to do. “

“Many scientists have reported when Omicron became available, but the time when such variants can be sampled is still really limiting us,” she said. ..

South African scientists have warned Omicron, but more than 80% of the 6.3 million genomes uploaded to Gisaid come from North America and Europe. “Unless we expand Sars-Cov-2 genomic surveillance to more countries in order to get more reliable data, we don’t know how fast we can see it. “Hodcroft added.

The BioNTech / InstaDeep program uses global sequence repositories such as Gisaid to analyze hundreds of thousands of registered viral variants for “compatibility” (potential spread) and antigenicity properties of each variant, or you can analyze your ability to escape existing immunity. Coronavirus.

Then combine these two measures to create a risk score. The higher the score, the greater the risk of the variant affecting overall health. Omicron obtained a very high score for these two indicators. The system also evaluated the IHU or B.1.640.2 variants recently observed in France and has relatively similar antigenic escape properties to Omicron, but with significantly lower fitness and less concern. I’ve found.

Advance warning of high-risk variants also helps scientists adapt the vaccine. BioNTech has announced that it will begin clinical trials of an Omicron mRNA-based vaccine by the end of January. At the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco this week, Sahin said, “We have already started commercial scale production of the Omicron vaccine. We expect it to be ready for market supply by March 2022, subject to regulatory approval. ”

BioNTech and AI Startup Develop Tool to Predict High-Risk Coronavirus Variants Source Link BioNTech and AI Startup Develop Tool to Predict High-Risk Coronavirus Variants

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