Alibaba brings cloud services/AI to Covid-19 fight

Published on the 25/03/2020 | Written by Jonathan Cotton


Alibaba cloud services_covid-19

As the world hunkers down, Alibaba opens its tech to medical professionals around the globe…

Developed by experts from Alibaba’s DAMO Academy (the Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook) and enterprise communication platform Dingtalk, the new Global MediXchange for Combating Covid-19 aims to bring better collaboration, computing capabilities and data intelligence to the worldwide Covid-19 research effort.

“This programme was established to facilitate online communication and collaboration across borders, as well as provide frontline medical teams around the world with the necessary communication channels to share practical experience about fighting the pandemic,” said the company, announcing the medical exchange program last week.

Bringing together video conferencing technology and and real-time AI translation (Arabic, Bahasa, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese are all supported), the platform will enable Chinese doctors to share their knowledge and answer questions from peers around the world.

We can’t beat this virus unless we share our resources, know-how and hard-earned lessons.

The move is in step with others taken by tech giants around the world, as systems and capabilities are reconfigured to the public good during this time of crisis: Amazon Web Services has pledged US$20 million to help customers working on Covid-19 diagnostics, Google is offering its G-Suite services (in particular, free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video conferencing for education providers) and IBM is offering its supercomputing capabilities to ‘help researchers everywhere better understand Covid-19, its treatments and potential cures’. Microsoft, SAP and Cisco have also committed resources to the Covid-19 response effort.

“We can’t beat this virus unless we share our resources, know-how and hard-earned lessons,” says Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group.

Alibaba’s offering is divided into four key centers: The Resources Sharing Center, which distributes anti-epidemic information; the International Medical Expert Communication Center, a platform for medical professionals to exchange information in real time; the COVID-19 Chinese Consultation Center, which provides isolated Chinese citizens with real-time health consultation, and the Fighting COVID-19 Technology Center, which showcases cutting-edge anti-epidemic technologies.

The Epidemic Prediction Solution models epidemic characteristics of COVID-19 in a particular region, providing estimates of size, peak time and duration of the epidemic, as well as the spreading trends under three conditions – optimistic, neutral and pessimistic, Alibaba says.

“Based on machine learning, the algorithm was already tested on 31 provincial data in China and averaged 98 percent accuracy. It can serve as a reference to policymakers and medical researchers on prevention and control measures, medical resource allocation and travel advisories.”

The CT Image Analytics Solution is a CT image analytics service that can significantly improve testing accuracy and detection efficiency for diagnosing COVID-19.

“With deep-learning algorithms trained by data in China, the trained model can predict the probability of different pneumonia types, including the variety associated with COVID-19,” says the company.

“It also performs computations of the proportion of lesions and the affected volume ratio to the entire lungs, by using the lung segmentation method. The whole test takes about three to four seconds to run and 15 to 16 seconds of transmission time, making it nearly 60 times faster than human detection. More than 160 hospitals in China are currently using the solution.”

The Genome Sequencing for Coronavirus Diagnostic Solution uses an AI algorithm from the DAMO Academy. Running on Alibaba Cloud, the virus genome sequencing solution for coronavirus analytics includes viral genetic data screening, evolutionary analysis, protein structure analysis and diagnostic reporting.

“It can complete the diagnosis of new coronavirus within 14 hours, which is five times faster than other available sequencing solutions in China. It can screen more than 20 people simultaneously, making the averaged time for each sample just around half an hour, much shorter than the normal two hours with the PCR method.

“The solution helps disease control centers, hospitals and clinics, and laboratories to address challenges such as insufficient nucleic acid detection capacity, high false-negative rates of the PCR method, and possible virus mutations.”

The Elastic High-Performance Computing (E-HPC) Solution for Life Sciences, is a cloud-based high-performance computing cluster solution designed for researchers working on life sciences applications, especially for computational-driven drug design and AI-driven drug design.

“The solution already supports 20 research groups in China. For example, the intelligent CT diagnostic system on COVID-19 pneumonia developed by Tsinghua University can complete diagnosing in 10 seconds, and the performance of gene assembly by Sun Yat-sen University is accelerated by 25 percent utilising the solution.”

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