Baidu partners with French vaccine maker Sanofi to use algorithms for mRNA vaccine development

November 23, 2021 7:37 pm

On Monday, Baidu released a statement saying it has struck a partnership with Sanofi, a French multinational pharmaceutical corporation and one of the world's most prominent vaccine makers. Both parties agreed to apply Baidu’s LinearDesign, an algorithm for messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence, to Sanofi’s product layout.

Since the pandemic, people outside of the medical field have familiarized with the term mRNA. mRNA — messenger ribonucleic acid — has applications beyond COVID vaccines.

Baidu had begun researching in RNA secondary structure since 2018, and launched the LinearDesign algorithm specifically for mRNA sequence design in April 2020. According to Baidu, research has prove LinearDesign to be effective in terms of finding a stable sequence solution in 10 minutes.

In April 2020, Baidu signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to jointly establish the "China CDC Emergency Technology Center-Baidu Gene Sequencing Workstation”, to help achieve rapid virus sequencing, analysis and surveillance related to COVID.

To further validate the effectiveness of LinearDesign algorithm, Baidu collaborated with Stemirna Therapeutics, a Shanghai-based biotechnology company, to conduct a series of experimental studies.

In October 2021, Baidu and Stemirna Therapeutics jointly published the results of LinearDesign experiments on the new coronavirus vaccine. The results showed that LinearDesign's vaccine sequence outperformed the benchmark sequence designed by traditional methods in several important measures of vaccines, including stability, protein expression level, and immunogenicity.

According to Baidu, to promote coronavirus related medical advances, it has made available the world's fastest RNA structure prediction related algorithms, LinearFold and LinearPartition on its website, for free.

China’s tech giants have been expanding in the medial and health sector in recent years. For example, with Alibaba‘s “Health and Happiness” campaign, it established Alibaba Health in 2014, focusing on new retail, internet medical services, commercial medical services and smart medical technology. established its health and medical arm, JD Health in 2019. Its service ranges from online pharmacy, online hospitals and even healthcare for pets. JD Online Healthcare, an online hospital, was among the first in China to be granted an Internet Hospital License.

Baidu was also one of the early players in the med-tech sector. It established a medical business unit in 2015, integrating medical resources from hospitals across China and featuring online doctor appointments. However, the business unit was chopped in 2017, following the death of Wei Zexi — an incident which a Chinese patient died after receiving treatment in a hospital that Baidu search results promoted.