There is nothing more important in the global economy than the health and wellness of all our citizens. The raging war of COVID-19 has been persisting with a vengeance and evolutionary resilience that has the medical community constantly on high alert. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on February 11th, 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.”
According to Harvard Medical Professor, William Haseltine, author of Variants. The Shape Shifting Challenge of COVID-19, “If we’re lucky, SARS-CoV-2 will evolve, like the 1918 virus dubbed the “Spanish flu,” to become less lethal. After infecting an estimated 500 million worldwide and killing at least 50 million, the 1918 flu virus receded. But hope that this coronavirus will attenuate over time is no guarantee that it will. We already know that coronaviruses can become much more lethal; we need look no further than SARS-CoV-1, which killed 50 percent of those aged 65 and older, and MERS, which killed one out of three infected.”
This outlook seems more probable that not and accelerates the requirement that global leaders need to continue to align and advance international pandemic policies.
So what are global governments doing to advance COVID-19 research and stimulate innovation?
CIFAR – Canadian government AI research COVID-19 grants have been impressive, including projects like: using medical imaging and AI to predict how sick someone will become following COVID-19 infection and understanding which existing drugs may be effective in treating COVID-19, understanding how the virus is mutating as it is transmitted through the population, identifying at-risk populations and predicting disease course, both at individual and population-wide levels, to understanding the transmission of COVID-19 in children and their families, understanding the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak through social media analysis. Over 14 projects currently underway using AI methods to fight COVID-19 and this is in only one grant area highlighted in Canada alone.
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US Government National Health and Human Services (NIH) have a wealth of grants available to AI researchers and The USA National Security Commission recently wrote a paper focus on AI Technology and its role in Supporting a Pandemic response, and made a series of recommendations on how AI can be applied, ranging from: situational awareness of disease surveillance and diagnostics, production of vaccines, therapeutics, advancing medical equipment diagnostics to ongoing healthcare – ie: protecting the healthy and treating the sick.
For example, US Boston-based DataRobot has built an AI Based models that predict COVID-19 spread to help and inform policy decision makers, and even Canadian company, BlueDot used an AI driven tool to detect the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. Even AI enabled robots can diagnose COVID-19 remotely and are being tested in Boston hospitals.
The Center for Security and Emerging Technology completed a brief on China’s Use of AI and its COVID-19 response, highlighting different AI technologies being used to fight COVID-19, and identifying key players in the China ecosystem. For example, 4Paradigm has partnered with Nanjing Hospital and the Northern Jiangsu People’s Hospital to achieve more accurate and efficient transmission source-tracing. According to CAICT, the team used machine learning technology to build a “data-driven coronavirus transmission digital twin system,” combined with patient information, to monitor and trace possible transmission sources. A different type of intelligent surveillance applications is illustrated by companies such as Airdoc and Beijing SEEMMO Technology have produced intelligent devices that monitor and sense vascular conditions and body temperature, in conjunction with video surveillance and facial recognition technology, as part of their efforts to combat COVID-19.
There are currently hundreds of AI research grants trying to advance COVID 19 in Canada alone, and in the USA, I am estimating there are well over 10,000 funded grant projects let alone adding in the European countries, India, Asian and Russia etc. It is conceivable that there are well over 1 million funded research projects underway globally researching to find new ways to tackle COVID-19 and advance our health care systems – and hopefully most of them are publishing their research findings so the knowledge sources can be leveraged and further advance our innovations in fighting a global Pandemic.
Now that we have shared a few perspectives of government leaders using AI for health advantages, it is also key to acknowledge the leadership of all business leaders doing what they can to tackle our pandemic health crisis. Below are just a few acknowledgements of companies making a major contribution that I wanted to ensure you knew about. Nothing like seeing what other leaders are doing to help other leaders reflect on pathways to also step up more.
Business Community Leadership
Canadian Businesses have been consistently stepping up through the Business Council of Canada in sharing their community leadership efforts in helping to support health requirements of COVID-19, with major Canadian Banks like: BMO, TD, RBC, ScotiaBank, International Brands like: Cisco, Pfizer, Teck Resources, and many others like: Bruce Power, Brinks Canada, – are all contributing as business leaders to augment the existing efforts formal government channels have underway.
Most important on the business influence is setting up additional support facilities to advance employee vaccinations as well as putting in mandatory policies to be vaccinated. Companies like Amazon has hosted more than 1,800 on-site vaccination events for front-line employees since March, and we continue to innovate on behalf of employees to keep them and our communities safe and healthy. Learn how Amazon Care clinicians are helping scale our personalized approach to vaccine education.
In Canada, like wise, we have seen leading logistic and transportation brands like Purolator set up vaccination clinics to increase ease of testing or being vaccinated, but also support the small business community with education leadership in a knowledge portal to share knowledge on the Corona-19 virus. Health First extends in brands like Purolator well beyond their employee base but into their customer base, which is role model community leadership – and we need more companies world-wide looking after their collective – employee – customer and supplier value-chains.
International Billionaire Leadership
International contributions by billionaries have also been significant in fighting against COVID-19, and you can find a more comprehensive list here, and even see media and entertainment singer contributions from Beyonce, Ping to U2, to name a few. Alisher Usmanov, iron and steel billionaire has donated a total of $168.2 million toward the fight against corona virus both in his native Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation. Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin, who owns just over a third of nickel and palladium producer, Norilsk Nickel, has pledged about $142 million on relief efforts. The funds will be used to purchase medical equipment, medicine, and PPE for healthcare institutions, and for Norilsk Nickel’s employees and businesses.
On the USA billionaire front to name a few, Los Angeles billionaire Jeff Skoll, has put $100 million into his foundation to fight the spread of COVID-19. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings donated $30 million to Gavi Alliance, a nonprofit immunization organization started by Bill and Melinda Gates. Phil Knight unveiled a suite of pledged initiatives totalling around $375 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Michael Dell, founder of Dell Technologies, and his wife, Susan Dell, are donating $100 million through their charitable foundation to combat the effects of COVID-19. Bill Gates, co-chairman and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed $100 million through his foundation to aid global detection, isolation, and treatment of the virus. They later announced an additional $150 million. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, founders of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, are donating $30 million. $25 million will go to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, while $5 million will go to relief efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Azim Premji, Indian tech magnate, Chairman of Wipro Limited, committed 1000 crore (US$134 million) through his philanthropic arm, the Azim Prem.
In addition to all these examples of health care leadership in both government and business, we should also recognize that AI can manage our supply chain globally more effectively and efficiently, predicting disruptions and vulnerabilities, monitoring and prioritizing inventory, prompting demand manufacturing, recommending corrective actions to support our health care requirements and also keep our international economies operational.
There is still a great deal for all of us to do to advance our ecosystems to come together to fight this global pandemic. What is real is that although we are already three years now into the global pandemic, we have yet to return to our old world and the question looming for all of us is, will we ever return to what we knew prior or are we simply riding an evolutionary series of COVID-19 variants?
2022 will be a telling year for all of us and I look forward to reporting on our progress over the next twelve months but from the lense of what Board Directors and CEO’s can continue to do to keep their employees, customers, suppliers safer.
We all have a responsibility and this is a virus war that is unprecedented in our life-time.