Three of the 12 projects funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), within the scope of the contest “AI 4 COVID-19: Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Public Administration to reinforce the fight against COVID 19 and future pandemics – 2020”, are led by researchers from the University of Coimbra (UC).
The overall amount of funding allocated to the three projects, entitled “VIRHOSTAI – Discovery of the virus-host interatoma: an approach guided by artificial intelligence and multi-atomic data”, “Lung@ICU – Advanced tools for diagnosis and prognosis in pneumology @ Intensive Care”, and “A system for documenting the interface between clinical and data science needs to face the challenge of COVID”, exceeds 700 thousand euros.
VIRHOSTAI – Discovery of the virus-host interatoma: an approach guided by artificial intelligence and multi-atomic data
The “VIRHOSTAI” project is led by Irina de Sousa Moreira, from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC), and will focus on the development of an innovative platform capable of proposing new therapies specifically designed for the treatment of COVID-19.
In the current context, says the researcher, “it is essential to identify quickly and reliably therapeutic targets and drug candidates so that only the best can advance to pre-clinical and clinical trials. To this end, it is essential to maximize the use of the enormous volume of data generated during the global fight against the pandemic and the latest advances in intelligent computing technologies to accelerate and optimize the search for therapeutic solutions that are difficult to obtain with traditional methodologies”.
This research, which obtained 240 thousand euros of funding, will be developed in partnership with the Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra (CHUC), Institute of Systems and Computer Engineering, Research and Development in Lisbon (INESC-ID) and the Associação do Higher Technical Institute for Research and Development (IST-ID) of the University of Lisbon.
Lung@ICU – Advanced tools for diagnosis and prognosis in pneumology @ Intensive Care
The Lung@ICU project, coordinated by Paulo de Carvalho, from the Medical Informatics Laboratory of the Center for Informatics and Systems at the University of Coimbra (CISUC), proposes to develop an integrated set of diagnostic and prognostic tools based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), based on remote auscultation of chest sound and electrical impedance tomography (EIT). It received 238 thousand euros in funding and includes researchers from CHUC, covering experience in the clinical and scientific area of pneumology.
This investigation essentially aims to respond to three major challenges faced in the current hospital environments to combat pandemic diseases, namely difficulties in the diagnosis and proper evaluation of patients with COVID-19, shortage of professionals trained in pneumology and intensive care units (ICU) and need for adequate decision support tools for the diagnosis and accurate prognosis of the disease evolution.
“Due to the individual protection measures required of health professionals, such as isolation suits, and the requirement to maintain a safe distance from infected patients, traditional observation and diagnostic methods such as auscultation are not feasible, which creates difficulties in diagnosis and proper evaluation of patients with COVID-19, even by experienced pulmonologists”, explains Paulo de Carvalho. On the other hand, he stresses, “the pandemic nature of this outbreak has led to a shortage of professionals trained in pneumology and intensive care units. For example, many professionals from other fields (in some countries, even medical students) were recruited to prevent the collapse of health services”.
A system of documentation of the interface between clinical and data science needs to face the challenge of COVID
The third project funded by FCT – “A system of documentation of the interface between clinical and data science needs to face the challenge of COVID” – is led by Miguel Castelo-Branco, a researcher at the Coimbra Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Translational Research (Cibit), and obtained financing of 239 thousand euros. It focuses on generating a data science tool and decision support at the hospital level and developing distance support and neurorehabilitation line that mitigates the difficulty in organizing responses.
“This type of tool is critical at a time when it is necessary to respond to the tremendous impact of COVID. The aim is to develop a system that is easy to use and maintain, with several features that aim to improve electronic clinical records and support research and clinical decision, in the context of the current pandemic”, stresses the project coordinator. Based on the previous collaborative work between CHUC and the UC in Health Information Systems and Electronic Health Record, the development of the proposed system “assumes an increasingly decisive importance for the success and quality of the provision of health services, a since it will allow improving the transmission and use of information related to health services, between the different actors, ensuring the understanding of the information, both by the systems and by the users”, he explains.