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MUMBAI: Makers Lab Ltd, the research and development (R&D) arm of IT services provider, Tech Mahindra Ltd, has leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) to find potential therapeutic drugs for treatment of covid-19, commonly know as the novel coronavirus.

Tech Mahindra is also collaborating with bio-scientists for plausible therapeutic drugs and research laboratories to synthesise and test these compounds.

Indian IT firms, with their early investments in AI, have been using their computational resources to facilitate various aspects of covid-19 drug development and research. Recently, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd's (TCS) innovation lab used a methodology to identify 31 drug molecules for potential clinical trials. Wipro Ltd has been facilitating virtual human trials via solutions such as mHealth and Telemedicine technology, and solutions for Electronic Data Capture (EDC) and electronic Patient Reported Outcomes (ePRO).

The R&D team at Makers Lab is using molecular docking approach because of high transmission rate of covid-19.

“Our objective was to prevent the entry of virus into human host cells such as lung airway epithelial cells. This is important because the high transmission rate of covid-19 is attributed partly to the high affinity binding and entry of the virus into host cells. Once the virus cannot enter the host cell, it is harmless," said Nikhil Malhotra, global head of Makers Lab, Tech Mahindra.

Use of AI helped the research team to evaluate multiple scenarios with different parameters while finding how molecules dock with the main protease. Molecular docking enables search of therapeutically potent drugs and molecules in real time, to find compounds which can act as inhibitors against a viral protein computationally. Tech Mahindra conducted molecular docking studies across 19 FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved ligands and anti-viral drugs on the main protease of the virus.

More work needs to be done to move the process from molecular docking to actual drug design, testing and drug development. This is just the first step, where computational analysis can reduce the amount of time taken to narrow down the search among the vast array of molecules present in the process of finding a cure.


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