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COVID-19: The power of AI in the pandemic — New partnership with AI specialist Causaly will help UCL accelerate coronavirus research

UCL academics are working with Causaly to help accelerate various aspects of research into the COVID-19 pandemic, including identification of biomarkers and potential therapeutic agents.




Causaly is an innovative technology company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to rapidly read, understand and interpret vast databases of biomedical knowledge. The company uses machine-reading to surface evidence from 30 million biomedical publications in seconds, enabling researchers to rapidly map epidemiology data, biomarker genes, molecular targets and identify potential treatment options.


A synergy of biomedical expertise


Earlier this year, UCL Innovation & Enterprise and Causaly began exploring the potential of collaborating on a data-based project together. With the ongoing escalation of COVID-19, the two organisations saw a greater opportunity to bring their collective expertise to bear on the pandemic.


UCL has been actively working on a number of COVID-19 related research projects, including the development and delivery of a low-cost breathing aid, trials of a potential antiviral and rapid genome sequencing to better understand the spread of the disease.


Ongoing research into various aspects of the pandemic at UCL could potentially be enhanced by Causaly’s technology and expertise – for example, helping to identify potential molecular targets of the disease.


The company has been actively optimising its technology for the current pandemic – working alongside industry, government and academia. Following an agreement with UCL Innovation & Enterprise, several researchers and groups within UCL actively working on COVID-19 related projects have now been granted access to Causaly technology, with the possibility of more researchers being given access in the near future. Those projects range from the development of therapeutics and diagnostic approaches to epidemiological models, mental health-focused strategies and healthcare system logistics.


Professor Spiros Denaxas, from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, commented: “As a medical researcher working at the interface between care and research, Causaly allows me to rapidly ingest, analyse and derive insights from huge amounts of biomedical literature. Importantly, it allows us to focus on the translation of our research by enabling us to triangulate evidence derived from research and clinical guidelines.”


Dr Vassilis Georgiadis, Senior Partnerships Manager (Pharma & Healthcare) in the Business & Innovation Partnerships team, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, added: “Our partnership with Causaly strengthens UCL’s research and innovation tools to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, giving our researchers superior access to existing biomedical knowledge. What’s impressive is that Causaly’s platform mimics how humans read cognitively. The company is looking to understand the context of data in text itself, extracting evidence and causality, which we hope will provide significant benefits to our research groups working on COVID-19 related projects.”


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The power of AI in the pandemic


COVID-19 shares some molecular pathway similarities with other betacoronaviruses, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-CoV (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-CoV (MERS-CoV). Causaly’s AI platform enables the rapid identification of all previously reported drugs for the betacoronavirus genus and also uncovers relationships that would not be obvious from a traditional literature review search. Causaly’s AI additionally allows users to find biomarker genes and potential molecular targets of a disease.


Yiannis Kiachopoulos, Co-founder and CEO at Causaly, said: “By using Causaly, UCL researchers will be able to unlock hidden evidence in biomedical literature faster, exploring mechanisms of action, treatments, side effects and more, using our cause-and-effect database that maps over 170 million relationships. Our goal is to help accelerate research efforts into COVID-19, and we’re delighted to be working with UCL, one of the world’s leading academic research institutions, at this critical time.”


UCL’s Vice-Provost (Enterprise), Dr Celia Caulcott, added: “At UCL Innovation & Enterprise, we have long championed collaboration between universities, industry, government and other innovative partners as being critical to solving some of society’s most pressing challenges. Never has this been more relevant than today, as we mobilise to find solutions to an unprecedented global pandemic. This partnership with Causaly puts us on the best possible footing to work together during this crisis – and I am sure on different projects in the future.”


About Causaly

Our aim: Causaly’s mission is to transform how humans can find, visualise and interpret biomedical knowledge, and contribute to accelerating solutions to some of the greatest challenges we face.

What we do: Causaly allows anyone to run deep searches, and surface hidden evidence from the world’s biomedical literature. Our AI understands context, and is able to read and interpret literature, enabling researchers to find the answers to complex questions in seconds that would have previously taken weeks, or even months to find with traditional keyword search. Our technology has broad applications across life science R&D including drug discovery, translational research, epidemiology, market access and more.

Who we work with: Causaly is working with industry, governments and academia to enable faster, higher quality evidence-based predictions and discoveries.


Find out more or get in touch with us at Causaly.com


About UCL – London’s Global University

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently. Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL.

www.ucl.ac.uk| Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL


About UCL Innovation & Enterprise

UCL has a strong track record of working with industry, government and other innovators. These partnerships generate ground-breaking solutions and the critical thought leadership required to tackle the most challenging problems facing society. Specialist teams at UCL Innovation & Enterprise help make these partnerships happen. Find out more at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/enterprise Follow us on Twitter @UCLEnterprise.


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