Staying Ahead of the Game: How SARS-CoV-2 has Accelerated the Application of Machine Learning in Pandemic Management

Alexander H. Williams, Chang Guo Zhan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In recent years, machine learning (ML) techniques have garnered considerable interest for their potential use in accelerating the rate of drug discovery. With the emergence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, the utilization of ML has become even more crucial in the search for effective antiviral medications. The pandemic has presented the scientific community with a unique challenge, and the rapid identification of potential treatments has become an urgent priority. Researchers have been able to accelerate the process of identifying drug candidates, repurposing existing drugs, and designing new compounds with desirable properties using machine learning in drug discovery. To train predictive models, ML techniques in drug discovery rely on the analysis of large datasets, including both experimental and clinical data. These models can be used to predict the biological activities, potential side effects, and interactions with specific target proteins of drug candidates. This strategy has proven to be an effective method for identifying potential coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and other disease treatments. This paper offers a thorough analysis of the various ML techniques implemented to combat COVID-19, including supervised and unsupervised learning, deep learning, and natural language processing. The paper discusses the impact of these techniques on pandemic drug development, including the identification of potential treatments, the understanding of the disease mechanism, and the creation of effective and safe therapeutics. The lessons learned can be applied to future outbreaks and drug discovery initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-674
Number of pages26
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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