JOANNA SHIELDS Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Joanna Shields

CEO, BenevolentAI

Benevolent AI uses developing technology to help scientists discover life-changing medical innovations, such as new medicines.

“Every minute of every day, hospitals, clinicians, and scientists are generating patient, research, and experimental data,” Joanna Shields, founder of the company, tells Business Insider. The problem is there’s so much of it it’s difficult to keep track of. Benevolent AI’s models ingest the vast corpus of scientific literature at scale, and rifles through it at speed to find links between genes, diseases, drugs, and biological pathways.

“While AI models and algorithms will never fully replace scientists and clinicians, they can save time and money which is crucial in our current climate,” Shields says. That includes putting the machine brain to the task of tackling COVID-19. “It became clear that the world needed existing drugs until vaccines could be developed, tested, and made available en masse,” she adds.

Benevolent AI pored through the literature to see if there was anything that could help tackle some of the symptoms of coronavirus. The AI identified Barcitinib, a drug from Eli Lilly, which had shown potential in in vitro studies. Benevolent AI published its research in The Lancet in February, and NAID took forward research in the United States. “Early tests in approximately 800 patients have shown promising results,” Shields says.