Project Overview

Overview of the COVID-19 AI and Simulation Project

The spread of COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, continue pose a serious threat to our health and society both domestically and globally; hence, we must remain vigilant in relation to future developments. In the light of this situation, very high priority is being given to policies related to effective infection prevention, restriction of its spread, risk prediction, and swift development of treatment methods. Development and deployment of sophisticated, systematic, and flexible countermeasures at the earliest possible timing is the highest national priority.
The current aim of the project is to deploy a multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures and a series of platforms to support them, as shown in Figure 1.

Multiple protection measures and group of response platforms to protect citizens from the virus
Figure 1: Multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures and a series of underlying platforms to protect citizens from COVID-19

Rapid deployment of multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures is critical to this project as threat of COVID-19 persists. A series of research and deployment tasks are designed as Research Areas that shall be implemented as protective measures for people in Japan.

Multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures will be made possible by a series of technologies for monitoring and the data/modeling platform. Such technologies and the platform are synergistically capture and integrate COVID-19 related data, analyze epidemiological status, simulate transmission dynamics, model and verify effectiveness of various testing and intervention strategies, simulate medical resource requirements, and provides countermeasure options for policy-makers.
Deployment of effective countermeasures require proper understanding of the spreading status, epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19, resources that can be mobilized, and scientifically supported strategies. The project aims to make use of modeling and simulation to estimate possible impacts of countermeasures as well as predicting and optimizing allocation of necessary medical resources including hospital beds, medical supplies, etc.(#4). Outcome of such research shall provide possible policy alternatives for decision-makers from central to local governments.
In order to perform meaningful simulation of COVID-19 spread and countermeasures, proper and systematic testing and surveillance (including contact tracing) is essential so that reasonably accurate data can be feed into a group of models for simulation. Research on identifying effective combination of PCR, antibody tests, and other testing approaches for improving efficiency and reliability of testing shall contribute for this objective. (#3)
Multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures shall be deployed, some of which are explained below;
The first line of defense is measures to reducing contact with people bearing a risk of transmission utilizing ICT/IoT (e.g. avoidance of contact using wearable equipment). (#2)
The second line of defense involves a method of reducing the risk of infection when coming into contact with people who may be infected and shedding virus. One of central focus of countermeasures on this defense line is development and implementation of proper “COVID-19 Infection Prevention Guideline” for respective industrial sectors where some of specific measures are indicated by HPC-based indoor air flow simulation and LiDAR-based visualization of droplet and aerosol. (#1)
Unfortunate cases of infection, despite above measures, will be taken care by the next line of defense that consists of early detection of COVID-19 patients, monitoring of asymptomatic and mild symptom patients, and biomarker discovery to prevent serious outcomes. (#5) An example of early diagnosis includes AI-based diagnosis support using CT-scan images. AI and omics- based severity biomarker discovery may help us identify high risk group requiring special attention.
In addition, a research will be carried out to detect variety of mutation of SARS-CoV-2 and infer potential changes in infectiousness and pathogenicity, enabling early warning on the emergence of notable mutations to researchers and medical practitioners. (#5)
Rapid development and deployment of these research outcome is expected to build up multiple layers of defense lines and supporting measures which shall be effective in controlling COVID-19 and possible future pandemics.