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BioNTech, InstaDeep Develop Early Warning System To Detect High-risk Covid-19 Variants In Advance

BioNTech SE (BNTX) and InstaDeep Ltd., a British provider of AI-powered decision-making systems, on Tuesday said that they have developed a new computational method to analyze worldwide available sequencing data to predict high-risk variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus well in advance.

The new computational method, known as Early Warning System, or EWS in short, is developed on the basis of artificial intelligence (AI) calculated immune escape and fitness metrics. Over 10,000 novel variant sequences are currently discovered every week and human experts simply cannot cope with complex data at this scale.

During the trial period, the system has identified above 90 percent of the World Health Organization (WHO)-designated variants, such as Variants of Concern (VOC), Variants of Interest (VOI), Variants Under Monitoring (VUM) on average two months in advance.

WHO-designated variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Theta, Eta, and Omicron were detected by the EWS in the same week its sequence was first uploaded.

The Omicron variant was ranked as a high-risk variant the same day its sequence became available.

The EWS detected Omicron on the day its sequence was first uploaded as the highest immune escaping variant from over more than 70,000 variants that were discovered between early October 2021 and late November 2021 while also assigning it a high fitness score.

The results from the study underline that the EWS is capable of evaluating new variants in minutes and risk monitoring variant lineages nearly in real-time, the companies noted.

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