A paper authored jointly by the van der Schaar Lab’s researchers, alongside colleagues from AstraZeneca, Novartis, and academics within the broader machine learning community, has been published in Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research (editor: Toshimitsu Hamasaki).
The paper, entitled “Machine learning for clinical trials in the era of COVID-19,” was accepted for publication on July 3 and made available online on July 20.
The authors introduce a number of machine learning methods that could substantially assist in the identification, approval and distribution of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, with a particular emphasis on three particular challenges:
- ongoing clinical trials for non-COVID-19 drugs;
- clinical trials for repurposing drugs to treat COVID-19; and
- clinical trials for new drugs to treat COVID-19.
While the paper in question focuses exclusively on COVID-19, its authors believe that their proposed approaches have broad applicability and substantial potential for impact within the domain of pharmaceutical discovery. They conclude that timely implementation of machine learning “will yield benefits that affect the entire future course of drug development and change the lives of patients across the world.”
In addition to its wide-reaching impact, the paper is notable as an example of fruitful and open collaboration between members of the academic machine learning community and researchers within the pharmaceutical industry. As the paper’s conclusion notes, “Diverse quantitative communities are coming together to address the challenges of this pandemic; our hope is that they will stay together – not just for this pandemic but in the long run, which will greatly improve the conduct of clinical trials in the future.”
Machine learning for clinical trials in the era of COVID-19
William R. Zame, Ioana Bica, Cong Shen, Alicia Curth, Hyun-Suk Lee, Stuart Bailey, James Weatherall, David Wright, Frank Bretz & Mihaela van der Schaar
The world is in the midst of a pandemic. We still know little about the disease COVID-19 or about the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes it. We do not have a vaccine or a treatment (aside from managing symptoms). We do not know if recovery from COVID-19 produces immunity, and if so for how long, hence we do not know if “herd immunity” will eventually reduce the risk or if a successful vaccine can be developed – and this knowledge may be a long time coming.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting enormous challenges to medical research, and to clinical trials in particular.
This paper identifies some of those challenges and suggests ways in which machine learning can help in response to those challenges. We identify three areas of challenge: ongoing clinical trials for non-COVID-19 drugs; clinical trials for repurposing drugs to treat COVID-19, and clinical trials for new drugs to treat COVID-19. Within each of these areas, we identify aspects for which we believe machine learning can provide invaluable assistance.
For a full list of the van der Schaar Lab’s publications, click here.
To find out more about the van der Schaar Lab’s work related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our dedicated page here.