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March 5, 2021

DataRobot Introduces AI-Powered Anti-Pandemic Initiative ‘ContagionNET’


COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, vaccinations are ramping up, and by all appearances, the pandemic generally appears to be waning after a horrifying year. That has a lot of researchers asking a scary question: what about the next pandemic? Now, enterprise AI firm DataRobot has launched a new not-for-profit initiative called ContagionNET, aiming to quickly help ameliorate the current pandemic and guard against future pandemics.

The initiative is predicted on a core idea: that better, faster testing has the potential to stop COVID-19 and similar pandemics in their tracks. In its announcement, DataRobot highlighted statistics estimating that the people with the highest viral loads spread 80% of new infections – and that those people, by and large, don’t yet know that they’re infected, as viral load peaks around three to five days after infection and most infections are diagnosed between seven and ten days afterward, if ever. “The reality is that those most likely to spread COVID-19 aren’t usually aware they are contagious,” said Sally Embrey, DataRobot’s VP of public health and health technologies.

Through ContagionNET, DataRobot hopes to address this gap. The method: at-home antigen tests complemented by a digital platform to identify areas of concern within communities. DataRobot argues that antigen tests, relative to diagnostic tests, are optimized for detecting high viral loads – and, beyond that, they are lower-cost, simpler, and more readily available. This combination of benefits allows easier deployment at scale, after which the analytics will do the heavy lifting.

“With the proliferation of frequent, easy-to-use at-home antigen checks, ContagionNET is poised to inform the most contagious of their risk and help them make lifestyle modifications that will significantly reduce spread of the virus,” Embrey said.

This is far from DataRobot’s first foray into COVID-19 work, having collaborated with the U.S. government to assist in the organization of vaccine trials. And as early as March 2020, DataRobot was providing its AutoML platform and Paxata data prep software free of charge to COVID-19 researchers.

“Half a million people in the U.S. didn’t need to die. It’s important we learn from COVID-19 so we never find ourselves in this position again,” said Jeremy Achin, CEO of DataRobot.  “With ContagionNET, we built — from the ground up — a solution that can serve as a center of gravity for pandemic preparedness. ContagionNET preserves individual freedom and privacy while allowing us to both stop the current pandemic and prevent future pandemics from ever occurring.”

DataRobot will be launching ContagionNET in pilot programs in a handful of locations across the U.S. and is actively soliciting partners in a wide range of sectors.