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Press Release | 04 Dec 2020

DreamLab enables Imperial College London to accelerate search for drugs and ‘hyperfoods’ that could potentially help those with COVID-19

  • DreamLab users have helped Imperial College London complete Phase 1 of its Corona-AI research project in only six months.
  • Research pinpoints molecules in everyday plant-based foods which have anti-viral properties and identifies drugs that could be potentially ‘repurposed’ against COVID-19.
  • DreamLab is a crowdsourcing app developed by Vodafone Foundation that uses the processing power of mobile phones to accelerate scientific research.

Vodafone UK today announced that hundreds of thousands of smartphone users across the globe have helped Imperial College London complete Phase 1 of its Corona-AI research project in only six months. This is significantly faster than would be possible with standard research methods. The Corona-AI project, which launched in April, aims to pinpoint combinations of existing drugs and food-based molecules that may help patients with COVID-19.

Researchers at Imperial College London have announced early findings from the research including the identification of molecules with anti-viral properties in everyday plant-based foods including berries (particularly blackcurrants, cranberries and blueberries), apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, parsley and beans. The study also found that common drugs used to combat cardiovascular and metabolic disorders – such as simvastatin, atorvastatin and metformin – could be potentially repurposed against COVID-19. The findings will now be further analysed by the researchers, who say clinical validation is needed to assess what impact these molecules might have.

Imperial College London’s Corona-AI research project has been delivered with the help of DreamLab, an award-winning app developed by the Vodafone Foundation, originally to facilitate cancer research. DreamLab uses the collective processing power of charging smartphones to create a virtual supercomputer capable of processing hundreds of thousands of calculations, speeding up the time it takes to deliver results.

Since April, DreamLab users have had the option to power either Imperial’s cancer research project, Project DRUGS (Phase 4), exploring links between specific drug and food molecules and cancer genomic networks, or Corona-AI Phase 1. So far, almost one million users in 17 countries have downloaded the DreamLab app to help speed up scientific research.

In Phase 1, the Corona-AI project has examined thousands of existing drug and food molecules, using Artificial Intelligence to crunch 100 million mathematical calculations, helping scientists explore their potential effect on COVID-19. When all phases of the research are complete – estimated to be December 2021 – results will be made available to the medical community to facilitate clinical trials.  Food-related findings could potentially be translated into dietary advice for patients recovering from COVID-19.

Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, who is leading the Corona-AI research project, said: “While there is, rightly, much focus on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, we are looking for ways to potentially help people when they have contracted the virus, reducing either the duration or the severity of the disease. For patients who may not need hospital treatment, there is a critical need for innovative and cost-effective out-of-hospital treatment. We expect that precision nutrition strategies – designed with phytochemically rich Hyperfoods – may offer a novel solution in this regard.”

Helen Lamprell, Trustee of the Vodafone UK Foundation and General Counsel and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK, said: “We’re proud that DreamLab is supporting research into COVID-19 and that it provides a platform so that people across the world can get involved. As the research moves to Phase 2, there’s still more to do. We encourage everyone to download and use the DreamLab app whenever they charge their smartphone. Together, we are making a difference.”

To download DreamLab, search for it in the App Store for iOS or Play Store for Android. Vodafone customers can activate DreamLab for free using either mobile data or Wi-Fi. Those on other networks will be asked how much data they would like to donate to power the app, or can connect via Wi-Fi. No personal data from the user’s device is used in any way.

For more information on the DreamLab app and the Corona-AI project, please visit the Vodafone UK News Centre.

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Notes to Editors

The research article entitled ‘Network machine learning maps phytochemically-rich ‘Hyperfoods’ to fight COVID-19’ has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in Human Genomics.

DreamLab is available to download worldwide and free to use for Vodafone customers in Albania, Australia, Czech Republic, DRC, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lesotho, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the UK. DreamLab was originally created to power research into anti-cancer treatments.

About Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone Foundation is at the centre of a network of global and local social investment programmes. Vodafone Foundation’s Connecting for Good programme combines charitable giving and technology to make a difference in the world. Vodafone Foundation is an independent UK registered charity, number 1089625.

About Imperial College London

Imperial College London is one of the world’s leading universities. The College’s 17,000 students and 8,000 staff are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine, engineering and business, and translating their discoveries into benefits for our society.

Imperial is the UK’s most international university, according to Times Higher Education, with academic ties to more than 150 countries. Reuters named the College as the UK’s most innovative university because of its exceptional entrepreneurial culture and ties to industry.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of June 2021, we have 5G in 364 locations across Europe – 124 in the UK and 240 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk.

Vodafone UK Media Relations

Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 693 693

Email: ukmediarelations@vodafone.com

Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews

Website: https://newscentre.vodafone.co.uk

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