AdventHealth to study COVID-19 outcomes with AI biotech firm


AdventHealth on Monday announced a project with biotechnology company Berg to try to better tailor treatments for COVID-19 patients.

AdventHealth and Berg are kicking off the project as a research effort, initially building a biobank with data pulled from health records of AdventHealth patients who received COVID-19 testing. From there, the groups plan to apply Berg’s artificial-intelligence tools to flag interventions linked with better outcomes in specific patient populations, based on such characteristics as ethnicity or comorbidities.

Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth has tested more than 250,000 people for COVID-19, said Dr. Steven Smith, senior vice president and chief scientific officer at AdventHealth.

“That data really gives us an opportunity,” Smith said.

AdventHealth and Berg began discussing plans to apply the company’s precision medicine tools to study conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and sarcopenia, or age-related skeletal muscle mass loss, in late 2019. However, in the wake of the pandemic, the groups decided to start with a focus on COVID-19 instead.

AdventHealth and Berg are not disclosing financial details of the partnership.

AdventHealth and Berg plan to study whether bringing together information on past COVID-19 patients’ length of stay, administered medications, medical history and outcomes can produce insights that better inform and target treatment plans.

“Why was it that these individuals, who posed such a high risk based on all the known parameters, their outcomes were just fine?” Niven Narain, Berg’s president and CEO, offered as an example of a research question to study. That’s what “the AI is going to help to discriminate.”

AdventHealth and Berg are still in the first phase of their research collaboration, which involves gathering demographic, medical history, laboratory tests and other clinical data for the biobank, preparing the data for analysis, and starting to develop hypotheses.

The second phase of the project involves analyzing that data to determine which COVID-19 interventions were linked with better outcomes for which types of patients.

Researchers from AdventHealth and Berg plan to develop decision-support tools for clinical staff as they find trends in how COVID-19 affects different populations or targeted therapies that could help improve patient outcomes, as well as publicly publish their findings.

Smith said their plan is to publish findings “as soon as possible” after validating them, including publishing their research as preprints.

“We’ve learned a lot from this pandemic,” Smith said. “One of the things we’ve learned is to move faster in the scientific realm.”



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