Emerging role of artificial intelligence in therapeutics for COVID-19: a systematic review

J Biomol Struct Dyn. 2020 Dec 10;1-16. doi: 10.1080/07391102.2020.1855250. Online ahead of print.


To elucidate the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in therapeutics for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Five databases were searched (December 2019-May 2020). We included both published and pre-print original articles in English that applied AI, machine learning or deep learning in drug repurposing, novel drug discovery, vaccine and antibody development for COVID-19. Out of 31 studies included, 16 studies applied AI for drug repurposing, whereas 10 studies utilized AI for novel drug discovery. Only four studies used AI technology for vaccine development, whereas one study generated stable antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Approx. 50% of studies exclusively targeted 3CLpro of SARS-CoV-2, and only two studies targeted ACE/TMPSS2 for inhibiting host viral interactions. Around 16% of the identified drugs are in different phases of clinical evaluation against COVID-19. AI has emerged as a promising solution of COVID-19 therapeutics. During this current pandemic, many of the researchers have used AI-based strategies to process large databases in a more customized manner leading to the faster identification of several potential targets, novel/repurposing of drugs and vaccine candidates. A number of these drugs are either approved or are in a late-stage clinical trial and are potentially effective against SARS-CoV2 indicating validity of the methodology. However, as the use of AI-based screening program is currently in budding stage, sole reliance on such algorithms is not advisable at this current point of time and an evidence based approach is warranted to confirm their usefulness against this life-threatening disease. Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence; COVID-19; drug repurposing; novel drug discovery; vaccine development.