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DreamLab app coronavirus ai

DreamLab gets smartphones working together to help find Covid-19 cure

Image credit: vodafone

Scientists are hoping to use the collective computing power of thousands of smartphones around the UK to speed up research into finding effective treatments for Covid-19.

The 'DreamLab' app has been developed by the Vodafone Foundation and was originally launched in 2017 to facilitate cancer research.

Users are encouraged to download the app and activate it at night while they are charging their phones.

Scientists from Imperial College London believe if 100,000 DreamLab users power the app for six hours every night for three months, they can complete vital research that would take Imperial’s supercomputers a year to process.

The app harvests the processing power of every smartphone running it to work on small pieces of data. Ultimately, with a large number of users, this allows for huge amounts of information to be processed in a relatively short space of time.

The project then uses AI to trawl through data and identify existing drugs and food molecules that could benefit those with the infectious disease. 

The more people that plug in, the quicker possible treatments will be found. No personal data from the user’s device will be required.

The first phase of the project, which has been dubbed Corona-AI, will identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties that may benefit those with Covid-19.

Following this, the project will pivot to finding the optimal combinations of these drugs and food molecules to provide potential drug treatments and nutritional advice.

Once the research is complete, it will be made available to the medical profession to facilitate clinical trials.

Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, who is leading the research, said: “We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it and the great thing about repurposing existing drugs is that we already know they are safe and therefore could get them to patients quickly.

“However, we have to do difficult and complicated analyses using artificial intelligence and all of this takes a huge amount of computing power. DreamLab creates a supercomputer that enables us to do this important work in a relatively short timeframe.”

The app can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android.

Helen Lamprell, Trustee and board member of the Vodafone UK Foundation and General Counsel and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK said, “We’re working hard to keep the UK connected during this challenging time.

“We ask everyone to come together and harness the collective power of their smartphones by connecting to DreamLab. If everyone in the UK connects, we have the potential to really make a difference in the fight against Covid-19.”

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