NIH Offers Grant for COVID-19 Related AI Development


A research team from Rensselaer is working on developing AI tools to identify high risk COVID-19 patients.

The death toll for COVID-19 has now exceeded over 150,000, and it’s still spreading. The need for better screening and treatment options for patients with existing conditions such as diabetes or lung disease that make them high-risk is critical.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new grant aimed at supporting the quick development and integration of a collection of artificial intelligence algorithms that will analyze health data including vital signs and chest computed tomography images to assist healthcare providers assess the severity of the disease and likely prognosis’ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and assistant professor of biomedical Pingkum Yan are leading the project.

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“Screening out the high-risk patients who may need intensive care later, and monitoring them more closely to provide early intervention, may help save their lives,” said Yan, who is a member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer. “My group has been focusing on using artificial intelligence and deep learning to analyze medical imaging data with an emphasis on translating the technology from benchside to bedside. This focus built a solid foundation for us, so when the crisis emerged, with our clinical collaborator at Massachusetts General Hospital, we quickly identified the clinical needs and started working on a solution.” 

Yan says the existing AI tools available can only determine how severe the lung infection caused by COVID-19 is, but cannot assess underlying conditions. His team will create a collection of algorithms to eradicate that deficiency. They will use a variety of data sources including demographics, vital signs, bloodwork results, and CT scans. Yan’s previous project that developed AI algorithms that determined a patient’s risk for heart disease will also be used in this research.

“Rensselaer expertise in artificial intelligence, as exhibited by Professor Yan’s work, makes rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic possible,” said Deepak Vashishth, the director of CBIS. “New and improved tools, like the one targeted here to identify high-risk COVID-19 patients, are essential in this public health crisis.” 

Sue Walsh

About Sue Walsh

Sue Walsh is News Writer for RTInsights, and a freelance writer and social media manager living in New York City. Her specialties include tech, security and e-commerce. You can follow her on Twitter at @girlfridaygeek.

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