Tom Simonite in Wired:
Late one January afternoon, British pharmacologist Peter Richardson ran out of his home office and told his wife, “Got it!” She asked what he was talking about and offered a cup of tea. Richardson explained that he had identified a drug that might help people infected with a new virus spreading in China.
Richardson’s dash was prompted by a finding from artificial intelligence software developed by his employer, BenevolentAI, a London startup where he is vice president of pharmacology. The company has created a kind of search engine on steroids that combines drug industry data with nuggets gleaned from scientific research papers. Using the software, Richardson had identified a rheumatoid arthritis drug that might dampen some of the most severe effects of the new virus, an illness now known as Covid-19.
The virus, and that idea, have advanced rapidly in the weeks since.