Fighting COVID-19 with LSU-Developed Artificial Intelligence

January 18, 2022

Developing New Treatments Faster and Cheaper

With repeat surges and the emergence of new variants, there is a rising need to continuously and effectively treat—in addition to prevent—COVID-19. While Pfizer and Merck were the first to launch antiviral treatments to ward off severe illness and death last month, another drug—discovered by LSU researchers using artificial intelligence, or AI—could soon become available.

After licensing the LSU AI technology, called DeepDrug™, the international tech company Skymount Medical partnered with authorities and hospitals in Ukraine and California to test a promising new treatment in patients. The treatment, a two-drug combination of an FDA-approved cancer medication and an FDA-approved anti-parasitic agent, was already shown to be up to 97% effective in reducing the amount of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in early cell and animal studies. This outcome was predicted by LSU DeepDrug™, which in mere minutes was able to rank 14,000 FDA-approved drugs and 800,000 others by how effective they would be against COVID-19.

AI unlocks the potential of drug repurposing, which means using established drugs for different reasons. This can dramatically shorten the timeline from lab to market.

Skymount Medical is hopeful the new therapeutic will reduce the severity of symptoms and the need for hospitalizations among patients enrolled in the ongoing studies. The treatment could also be shown to prevent “long COVID,” the lingering symptoms some people experience after recovering from COVID-19.

Memory game

LSU DeepDrug™, a drug discovery platform powered by artificial intelligence, identified an already FDA-approved cancer medication and an already FDA-approved anti-parasitic agent (both approved for humans), and predicted their combined effect would significantly reduce the amount of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The combination drug is now being tested by patients in Europe and at Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Medical Center in Moreno Valley, California.


“We’ve built a global company around the artificial intelligence (AI) technology developed by LSU. In the next year or two, we believe we’ll have 3 out of perhaps 10 treatments for COVID-19 available for the global population. This is because we can use the LSU DeepDrug™ AI technology as a gateway to relieve some of the return-on-investment pressure that makes it difficult for big pharma to develop new products. Instead of a billion dollars and 10-20 years for drug development, we can do it with 10 million in 1-2 years, or less.”

Chris Galliano, New Orleans resident and chief technology officer at Skymount, an international startup that licensed the LSU DeepDrug™ technology in 2020