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ArXiv Preprint

This paper presents a federated learning (FL) approach to train an AI model for SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus variant identification. We analyze the SARS-CoV-2 spike sequences in a distributed way, without data sharing, to detect different variants of the rapidly mutating coronavirus. A vast amount of sequencing data of SARS-CoV-2 is available due to various genomic monitoring initiatives by several nations. However, privacy concerns involving patient health information and national public health conditions could hinder openly sharing this data. In this work, we propose a lightweight FL paradigm to cooperatively analyze the spike protein sequences of SARS-CoV-2 privately, using the locally stored data to train a prediction model from remote nodes. Our method maintains the confidentiality of local data (that could be stored in different locations) yet allows us to reliably detect and identify different known and unknown variants of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. We compare the performance of our approach on spike sequence data with the recently proposed state-of-the-art methods for classification from spike sequences. Using the proposed approach, we achieve an overall accuracy of $93\%$ on the coronavirus variant identification task. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work in the federated learning paradigm for biological sequence analysis. Since the proposed model is distributed in nature, it could scale on ``Big Data'' easily. We plan to use this proof-of-concept to implement a privacy-preserving pandemic response strategy.

Prakash Chourasia, Taslim Murad, Zahra Tayebi, Sarwan Ali, Imdad Ullah Khan, Murray Patterson