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Alibaba Cloud connects medical pros around the world during COVID-19

Alibaba Cloud is offering medical employees around the world advanced cloud-based technology applications during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid operations.

The company has released a series of cloud native solutions that are specifically designed to fight the virus and are enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI).

They come from Alibaba Cloud solution experts, scientists and researchers from Alibaba DAMO Academy as well as the technical team at DingTalk, one of the platforms UNESCO has noted as facilitating distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak.

DingTalk’s International Medical Expert Communication Platform, hosted by Alibaba Cloud, provides free communication for medical workers all over the world.

This enables direct contact from doctors based at medical institutions such as the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University and others in China, who were and are on the frontline of COVID-19.

Through video conferencing and real-time AI translation into 11 languages (Arabic, Bahasa, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese), Alibaba Cloud states the aim with the solution is to build a virtual community, inviting Chinese doctors to share their experiences and answer questions from global peers.

Furthermore, from Alibaba DAMO Academy, a global research initiative by Alibaba, three proven solutions are being made available via free trial for medical professionals and research institutes worldwide.

Alibaba Cloud will work with local partners to deploy relevant services and solutions in accordance with local laws and regulations, the company said in a statement.

More specifically, some of the solutions offered by Alibaba Cloud are epidemic prediction, CT image analytics, genome sequencing for COVID-19 diagnosis, and elastic high performance computing (E-HPC) for life sciences.

Epidemic prediction: This solution models epidemic characteristics of COVID-19 in a particular region, providing estimates of size, peak time and duration of the epidemic, as well as the spreading trends under three conditions - optimistic, neutral, and pessimistic.

Based on machine learning, the algorithm was tested on 31 provincial data in China and averaged 98% accuracy. It can serve as a reference to policymakers and medical researchers on prevention and control measures, medical resource allocation and travel advisories, Alibaba states.

CT image analytics: The CT image analytics technology service is designed to improve testing accuracy and detection efficiency for diagnosing COVID-19. With deep-learning algorithms trained by data in China, the trained model can predict the probability of different pneumonia types, including the variety associated with COVID-19.

It also performs computations of the proportion of lesions and the affected volume ratio to the entire lungs, by using the lung segmentation method. The whole test takes about 3 to 4 seconds to run and 15 to 16 seconds of transmission time,making it nearly 60 times faster than human detection. More than 160 hospitals in China are currently using the solution.

Genome sequencing for COVID-19 diagnosis: This is an AI algorithm from Alibaba DAMO Academy and running on Alibaba Cloud, is a virus genome sequencing solution for coronavirus analytics, including viral genetic data screening, evolutionary analysis, protein structure analysis, and diagnostic reporting.

It can complete the diagnosis of new coronavirus within 14 hours, which is five times faster than other available sequencing solutions in China.

It can screen more than 20 people simultaneously, making the averaged time for each sample just around half an hour, much shorter than the normal two hours with the PCR method.

The solution helps disease control centres, hospitals and clinics, and laboratories to address challenges such as insufficient nucleic acid detection capacity, high false-negative rates of the PCR method, and possible virus mutations.

Elastic high performance computing (E-HPC) for life sciences: This is a cloud native, high performance computing cluster solution designed for researchers working on life sciences applications, especially for Computational-Driven-Drug-Design (CDDD) and AI-Driven-Drug-Design (AIDDD). The solution already supports 20 research groups in China.

For example, the intelligent CT diagnostic system on COVID-19 pneumonia developed by Tsinghua University can complete diagnosing in 10 seconds, and the performance of gene assembly by Sun Yat-sen University is accelerated by 25% utilising the solution.

Alibaba Cloud has also partnered with Global Health Drug Discovery Institute (GHDDI) in Beijing to launch an AI-driven-drug-discovery platform based on E-HPC.

Alibaba Cloud Australia and New Zealand general manager Raymond Ma says, “We are committed to sharing our proven technology in the fight against COVID-19 across the globe.

"In Australia, we hope to help students and workers stay connected remotely through technology, so that we can help minimise the impacts that COVID-19 has brought on to our daily lives.”