How researchers are using VR to combat COVID

Virtual reality (VR) lets researchers “look” at the 3D structure of COVID proteins.


June 14, 2021

Grab the protein! (Source: AFP Contributor)

COVID-19 3D sounds like a bad horror movie coming to an Imax theater near you, but it’s actually how researchers are studying the virus.

Nanome — a San Diego-based startup that raised $3m this year — uses VR to help people study molecular structures.

Researchers can see, move, and build atoms in 3D and collaborate remotely in real-time, per The Information.

Most of Nanome’s users…

… are academics and biopharmaceutical companies who license its tech. But the free version is available now on Steam and Oculus. And downloads are +50% between March 2020 and March 2021 compared to the year prior.

How do you use VR to stop coronavirus?

While the COVID-19 vaccine prevents infection, we still need antivirals, which treat people who’ve already been infected.

Andrey Kovalevsky, a senior R&D scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is using Nanome on an Oculus Rift S to figure out how to stop a COVID-19 protein from reproducing.

“Without VR, it is difficult to comprehend the three-dimensional of a protein,” Kovalevsky told The Information.

What else could medical science do with VR?

Caltech, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the National Cancer Institute have explored how VR could help find tumors in diagnostic imaging scans.

Immertec’s Medoptic lets surgeons broadcast their procedures, a service CEO Erik Maltais describes as “a combination of MasterClass and Twitch for health care in VR.”

Heru — which recently snagged $30m in Series A funding — is developing AI-driven vision diagnostics software for use in AR/VR headsets.

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