Press Release | 21 Jul 2022

Your smartphone could help tackle Long Covid

Led by researchers at Imperial College London, the project follows previous analysis of food biomolecules and existing drugs to fight cancer and COVID-19.

  • Latest project from Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app to use AI to identify “hyperfoods” and existing drugs to fight long COVID.
  • Led by researchers at Imperial College London, the project follows previous analysis of food biomolecules and existing drugs to fight cancer and COVID-19.
  • To be completed in late 2023, the study will be powered by DreamLab, a crowdsourcing app that uses the processing power of mobile phones to speed up scientific research.
  • Download DreamLab for free now in the App Store for iOS  or Play Store for Android.

Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app will support researchers at Imperial College London by using AI and machine learning to uncover how dietary biomolecules and phytochemically rich “hyperfoods” can help to fight long COVID.

One of the first studies exploring the link between biomolecules in the foods we eat and long COVID, the research has been made possible through Vodafone Foundation’s free and secure app DreamLab. The app harnesses your smartphone’s idle processing power to analyse complex data on behalf of the researchers while you sleep.

Dr Kirill Veselkov, Assistant Professor at Imperial College London, is leading a team of researchers at the university to develop critical analysis for long COVID as part of the new ‘DreamLab long COVID project’. The DreamLab mobile supercomputing technology has previously helped to uncover hundreds of biomolecules in foods against specific types of cancers and COVID-19.

“Combining the processing power of tens of thousands of smartphones, the DreamLab app drastically reduces the time taken to analyse such vast amounts of data. While it would have taken decades using traditional computing methods, the cloud-based network can crunch the same amount of data in months.

Long Covid and cancer: How your smartphone is helping scientists

Researchers are heading to their labs to test treatments identified by DreamLab as ones that could help people suffering from Long Covid and cancer.

Dr Veselkov commented: “For us to understand the impact of complex combinations of thousands of biomolecules in the food we eat on long COVID using traditional experimental methods is impossible – it would be like using a bicycle to explore the galaxy.

“Our project takes a radically different approach while uniting the public in one large citizen science AI project. It explores the “dark matter” of nutrition against long COVID beyond the traditional analysis of five major nutrition categories (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals). Everyone can contribute with their smartphone to this important piece of scientific research without having to be a professional scientist.”

Andrew Dunnett, Director, Vodafone Foundation, said: “As the pandemic continues to have a major impact on public health, I’m delighted that DreamLab users will now have the opportunity to help the scientific community fight long COVID. Thanks to the 2.2m volunteers who have downloaded DreamLab to date, and the active users who enable Imperial College London’s vital research.”

More than 1.8 million people in the UK alone may be suffering from long-lasting symptoms after the coronavirus infection has gone, sometimes called “long COVID”. Symptoms of long COVID include extreme tiredness, breathing problems, insomnia and ‘brain fog’, leaving many sufferers unable to work or live normal lives. While long Covid has become increasingly prevalent in society, little scientific research exists on the condition.

A research paper from 2021 highlights some of the surprising initial findings from Imperial’s previous COVID-19 research using DreamLab, which suggest:

  • Everyday foods may be enhanced by biomolecules with predicted anti-COVID-19 properties. Findings suggest that certain plant-based foods (such as blackcurrants, blueberries, apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, parsley, and beans) are most enriched in terms of diversity and abundance of these molecules.
  • Existing medicines for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders could be ‘repurposed’ to fight COVID-19.

The research project launches today and is expected to be completed in late 2023. Results will be made available to the research community to support clinical trials. For instance, precision nutrition strategies designed with phytochemically-rich ‘Hyperfoods’ could translate into dietary advice for patients recovering from long COVID.

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Notes to Editors

About DreamLab

DreamLab is available to download worldwide in the App Store for iOS or Play Store for Android, and can also be used by Mac users. It is free to power for Vodafone customers in most Vodafone markets – please read the Terms and Conditions when you download the app to check the status in your country. If you are not eligible as a Vodafone customer or you are on another network, you can connect through WiFi or choose how much data you would like to donate to power the app.

First launched by Vodafone Australia Foundation in 2015, DreamLab launched in the UK in May 2018 to power vitally important cancer research being carried out at Imperial College London.

Vodafone Foundation's DreamLab app plays starring role in creation of new Hyperfoods cookbook

Imperial College London researchers, chef Jozef Youssef and Vodafone Foundation team up to launch unique AI-inspired HYPERFOODS cookbook.

Research facilitated by DreamLab has been reported in a scientific paper published by Nature. Imperial College London researchers also published a Hyperfoods Cookbook, featuring ten recipes that incorporate foods found by the research to have disease fighting properties.

About Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone Foundation (UK registered charity number 1193984) believes the power of connectivity can change lives and address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Founded in 1991 with a simple mission to invest in the communities in which Vodafone operates, today the charity connects people and ideas with technology and funding, to help those already doing good work to achieve results faster, more cost effectively and with a bigger social impact. Through a strategy of Connecting for Good, Vodafone Group PLC’s philanthropic arm works in partnership with other charitable organisations and NGOs to create solutions that bring about long-term sustainable change and improve 480m lives by 2025.

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 the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, 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. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

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.

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