QCRI Offers Perspectives on Quest for COVID-19 Treatment
Hamad Bin Khalifa University

People HBKU’s Qatar Computing Research Institute Offers Perspectives on Quest for COVID-19 Treatment and News Manipulation

Scientific process for discovering COVID-19 vaccine and tools for identifying false news highlighted

The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), delivered the fifth and sixth installments of its webinar series centered on COVID-19. The webinar series is organized by the institute’s Qatar Center for Artificial Intelligence and focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and data science for COVID-19 data. With confirmed cases worldwide surpassing 2.7 million and growing, presentations focused on the race to develop vaccines and treatments and the ‘infodemic’ of inaccurate and false news undermining efforts to overcome the pandemic.

A Data-Driven Perspective on Drug Discovery highlighted technologies and methodologies used by scientists in their pursuit of finding a treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19. QCRI speakers: Raghvendra Mall, research scientist, and Ehsan Ullah, software engineer in the Health Group, discussed the pros and cons of some of the directions being pursued in search of a treatment, showcasing quantitative measures that are widely utilized to measure a drug’s effectiveness. The speakers presented an AI-based approach to design the drug repurposing task to identify potential drug candidates for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Speaking after the lecture, Dr. Mall said: “As scientists across the globe work nonstop to find a vaccine for COVID-19, the world waits with hope and uncertainty. This webinar explored the scientific techniques and methodologies used by these scientists and provided a perspective on the possible consequences of fast-tracking the process.”

Flattening the Curve of the COVID-19 Infodemic, presented by Kareem Darwish, principal scientist and acting managing director of Arabic Language Technologies, QCRI, Preslav Nakov, principal scientist, and Giovanni Da San Martino, scientist at QCRI, discussed the politicization of the pandemic and its effect on the perception of medical realities. 

They also presented tools developed by QCRI to help address misinformation and information manipulation in the context of social media and traditional media outlets. These include “Tanbih”, a news aggregator developed to limit the effect of fake news, propaganda, and media bias by promoting media literacy and critical thinking.

Dr. Nakov said: “The proliferation of fabricated news that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic is putting many lives at risk and impeding the progress in containing the virus. With this webinar, we aimed to educate and direct the public to resources that can help them identify fake news.”

The final installment in QCRI’s online webinar series on COVID-19 will be a panel titled Responding to Global Crises in the Age of Data and Information Overload on May 18. Experts from QCRI’s Qatar Center for Artificial Intelligence will discuss the outcomes of COVID-19 covering the physical reality on the ground and the overload of new information. The free webinar can be accessed at https://www.hbku.edu.qa/en/data-science-covid-19

QCRI is one of three national research institutes operating under HBKU’s umbrella. The Institute conducts world-class multidisciplinary computing research relevant to the needs of Qatar, the Arab region, and the world in areas such as Arabic language technologies, social computing, data analytics, distributed systems, cybersecurity, and computational science and engineering. For more information on the work of Qatar Computing Research Institute, please visit https://www.hbku.edu.qa/en/about-qcri 

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