Vodafone Foundation and Imperial College London ask phone users to help fight COVID-19
The Vodafone Foundation and scientists at Imperial College London are asking smartphone users across the UK to support a project to speed up research into effective treatments for Covid-19. The Corona-AI (artificial intelligence) project will be delivered through DreamLab, an award-winning app developed by the Vodafone Foundation and launched in 2017 to facilitate cancer research.
To get involved, all people need to do is download the DreamLab app and activate it every night whilst they sleep and charge their phones. This collective processing power creates a virtual supercomputer, capable of processing millions of calculations.
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 project uses Artificial Intelligence 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 is affected or used in any way.
The Corona-AI project is split into two phases:
- Phase 1 will identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties that may benefit those with Covid-19.
- Phase 2 will optimise combinations of these drugs and food molecules to provide potential drug treatments and nutritional advice for those with Covid-19.
Once the research is complete, it will be made available to the medical profession to facilitate clinical trials. In addition, any food-related findings will be translated into dietary advice that can be implemented by the medical community for patients recovering from Covid-19.
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.”
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.”
Vodafone customers can activate DreamLab for free using either mobile data or Wi-Fi connectivity. Those on other networks will be asked how much data they would like to donate to power the app, or can connect via Wi-Fi.
*The timescale relates to Corona-AI phase 1 only.