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NEC Uses Artificial Intelligence technology to design blueprints for SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines
April 23, 2020 News


NEC Corporation announced analysis results from efforts using AI prediction platforms to design blueprints for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that can drive potent T-cell responses in the majority of the global population. This initiative by the scientific teams within the NEC Group to help combat outbreaks of COVID-19 and support international vaccine development efforts is led by NEC OncoImmunity (NOI). Used by NEC and NOI, these AI prediction platforms are based on the AI technology in the development of personalised neoantigen cancer vaccines.

The team analysed thousands of sequences from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (responsible for causing COVID-19) and identified epitopes (potential vaccine targets) during the analysis, which is published at bioRxiv, for the 100 most frequent HLA alleles (diverse immunological makeup) in the global population. The prediction algorithms scanned for epitopes across the entire repertoire of proteins in SARS-CoV-2, not only the spike surface protein that gives this family of coronavirus its name. The team then used this data to identify “hotspots” in the viral proteome that contained overlapping and co-located epitopes from multiple HLA-alleles. The optimal constellation of “hotspots” was then selected by their algorithms to generate the optimal immune response with the broadest coverage of the human population, whilst prioritising hotspots that occurred in conserved regions of the viral proteome. These conserved regions are less likely to mutate in future strains. In addition, hotspots containing viral epitopes that had significant similarity with human proteins, especially those expressed in critical organs, were removed from the vaccine design blueprints to avoid adverse effects.

In designing the blueprints for a vaccine that is safe and efficacious, the analysis demonstrates the significant capabilities of the NEC Group to leverage their AI platforms in a global population that could address the current and future divergent strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

NEC is now publishing this research to support scientific advancements in the field and is ready to start partnering efforts to pursue the development of an effective vaccine targeting the global population.