Jimmy Lin spearheads creation of new AI-powered search engine to make it easier to find information in the fight against COVID-19

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Jimmy Lin has spearheaded the creation of a dedicated search engine for those who are engaged in the fight against COVID-19.

The system, called Neural Covidex, provides quick and easy access to the Allen Institute for AI’s COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19). CORD-19 is a publicly available, curated resource of over 45,000 scholarly articles, medical reports, journal articles, and preprints about COVID-19 and the coronavirus family of viruses for use by the global research community.

“Neural Covidex can provide an easier way for clinicians, researchers, and other experts to navigate the plethora of information that is emerging from the scientific community and obtain relevant, actionable evidence as quickly as possible,” said Professor Lin, who holds a David R. Cheriton Chair at the Cheriton School of Computer Science.

image of SAR-cov-2

3D render of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, an infectious respiratory illness.

Professor Lin, like many others, wanted to contribute in whatever way he could in the fight against COVID-19. His research focuses on building systems that help users gain insights from large amounts of text, leveraging techniques based on artificial intelligence (AI) and neural networks. He was able to rapidly redirect his research into building natural language processing and information retrieval components for exploring Allen Institute for AI’s dataset.

CORD-19 consists of articles dating back to SARS and MERS and previous coronaviruses. It includes knowledge on a wide range of topics, spanning public health, clinical care, epidemiology, genetics, and more. The dataset is updated weekly as new research is published in peer-reviewed publications and various preprint services.

“The ultimate goal of our work is to build a system that can help experts who are working on this worldwide pandemic,” said Professor Lin. “For example, doctors who are conducting meta-analyses to update clinical care guidelines and virologists who are working on developing a vaccine. We know we’re still pretty far from this, but we’re working hard to improve our system incrementally by leveraging the latest AI techniques.”

Working with Professor Lin is his colleague Professor Kyunghyun Cho of New York University and Cheriton School of Computer Science undergraduate students, Edwin Zhang and Nikhil Gupta.

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