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UPMC seeks to speed up clinical trials on COVID-19 treatments with the help of artificial intelligence

UPMC plans to test different treatments simultaneously with a clinical trial that will be rolled out to consenting patients

UPMC says it wants to bet on the winning horse, everytime.

That's why it's launching a program that it hopes will speed up clinical trials to test multiple treatments for COVID-19 on multiple consenting patients. The program will then provide immediate results for medical professionals through artificial intelligence.

"This is a complicated effort to pull off. And, there are definitely challenges to this kind of design," said Dr. Derek Angus, chief of the Critical Care Medicine Department.

The program is called REMAP, which stands for randomized, embedded, multi-factorial, adaptive platform. The program seeks to fast-track the process to finding the best treatments in order to administer them to patients.

"The problem with COVID-19 is that no one has any specific treatment for the disease itself," he said, adding that traditionally treatments would be tested on multiple patients during a length of time. But, he said, "we do not have the luxury of time. We must try to learn while doing."

The REMAP program will simultaneously test combinations of the anti-Malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, along with different combinations of corticosteroids and then roll in other more targeted immune system modulator drugs. 

"UPMC REMAP COVID-19 then learns on the fly using a built-in artificial intelligence engine," said Dr. Angus. He added, "those treatments that are doing the best even when the trial is still running, the trial then changes the odds towards getting those treatments more frequently. So, the poor performing therapies are discarded quickly and essentially our physicians are always betting on the winning horse."

UPMC has performed 7,376 tests for COVID-19 of which 592 have had positive results. That's a positivity rate of 8%.

UPMC has collected specimens at 9 locations. In Harrisburg, 342 samples were tested from two sites with a positivity rate of 12%.

Across all of UPMC, there are 97 inpatients positive for COVID-19.