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Preparing for future coronavirus variants using artificial intelligence

Machine learning is used to predict the interaction of SARS-​CoV-2 variants with receptors on human cells (bottom). (Visualisations: Science Photo Library / Adobe Stock / Montage)

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a method to explore the possibilities of how the pandemic virus could evolve. Thanks to their work, it may be possible to develop antibody therapies and vaccines that are more likely to be effective also against future viral variants.

SARS-​CoV-2 is constantly mutating and each new variant often catches the world by surprise. Take for example the highly mutated Omicron variant that emerged last November and required health authorities to develop a rapid response strategy even though, initially there were no answers to important questions: How protected are vaccinated and previously infected people against the new variant? And are antibody therapies still effective against this new version of the virus?

Researchers led by Professor Sai Reddy from the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel have now developed a way of using artificial intelligence to answer such questions, potentially even in real-​time immediately after a new variant emerges.

ETH News