Using AI to navigate out of a COVID treatment supply issue

By | August 6, 2020
Empty shelves in a store

Researchers fear that the same issues with supply chains that caused toilet paper shortages at the beginning of the pandemic in the United States may result in the same problem with the fine chemicals needed to synthesize COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines.

Now, a U-M team of medicinal chemists have used artificial intelligence to find alternative pharmaceutical building blocks for 12 drugs under investigation to treat COVID-19.

The team used crowd-sourcing to survey the vast amount of published and patented synthetic routes to build the 12 drugs. Then, the researchers encoded these known routes into the AI software, and asked it to come up with new recipes for vaccines.

This approach allowed the researchers to navigate around the starting materials that are already in the supply chain of the medicinal target compounds. Each search typically returned multiple proposals, which the researchers then winnowed down according to the overall economics of the starting materials and the overall sequence.