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How machine learning can help to future-proof clinical trials in the era of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest global healthcare crisis of our generation, presenting enormous challenges to medical research, including clinical trials. Advances in machine learning are providing an opportunity to adapt clinical trials and lay the groundwork for smarter, faster and more flexible clinical trials in the future.

In an article published in Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research, an international collaboration of data scientists and pharmaceutical industry experts—led by the Director of the Cambridge Center for AI in Medicine, Professor Mihaela van der Schaar of the University of Cambridge—describes the impact that COVID-19 is having on clinical , and reveals how the latest machine learning (ML) approaches can help to overcome challenges that the pandemic presents.

The paper covers three areas of clinical trials in which ML can make contributions: in trials for repurposing drugs to treat COVID-19, trials for to treat COVID-19, and ongoing clinical trials for drugs unrelated to COVID-19.

The team, which includes scientists from pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis, notes that “the pandemic provides an opportunity to apply novel approaches that can be used in this challenging situation.” They highlight the latest advances in reinforcement learning, causal inference and Bayesian approaches applied to .

The researchers considered it important to present the current state of the art in ML and to signpost how they used ML not only to address challenges presented by COVID-19 but also to take clinical trials in general to the next level, making them more efficient, robust and flexible.

In their paper, the researchers say that COVID-19 is:

  • Reducing the ability/willingness of trial subjects and staff to access clinical sites, disrupting timely data collection or necessitating a move to virtual data collection.
  • In some situations, causing delays or halting of clinical trials altogether.
  • Revealing how the standard
Health article

Thriving with Sjögren’s syndrome | NIH MedlinePlus Magazine

For decades, 79-year-old Joan Manny of Brookeville, Maryland, suffered from a variety of seemingly unconnected symptoms.

In her teens and 20s, she had swelling in her parotid glands, which are located on both sides of the face. At the time, doctors thought it was mumps. She also developed petechiae, which are round spots on the skin resembling a rash.

Later, Joan was diagnosed with vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. These flare-ups, she says, would last a few days, go away, and then reappear. She also suffered from joint pain, dental problems, and dry eyes.

“Having dry eyes made me very sensitive to sunlight and bright lights,” Joan says. “I remember wearing two pairs of sunglasses when I was driving because one just wasn’t enough.”

A common thread

It wasn’t until she was in her 30s—after numerous doctor visits—that Joan finally got a diagnosis for all her symptoms: Sjögren’s syndrome.

“I remember wearing two pairs of sunglasses when I was driving because one just wasn’t enough.”

– Joan Manny

This autoimmune disease attacks the glands that make tears and saliva. It causes dry eyes and dry mouth, and it can affect other parts of the body, including blood vessels, joints, and nerves. Because symptoms vary and affect people differently, getting a diagnosis can take time.

“Back in the 1960s, doctors didn’t know much about Sjögren’s syndrome,” Joan says. “I had to look it up in a medical dictionary, and there were only a few paragraphs about it. Most physicians weren’t aware of it.”

She spent the next several decades on various medications to manage her symptoms. Today, she only uses eye drops and saliva substitutes to maintain moisture in the areas where Sjögren’s affects her the most.

“I’m healthier today than I was in my 30s, 40s, and 50s,”