Can Google’s DeepMind help cure all diseases?

Google DeepMind has uncovered the three-dimensional structure of the 200 million proteins found in every living organism, allowing scientists to gain instant access to detailed information about the building blocks of life.

Scientists used to spend months or years studying the structure of proteins before an artificial intelligence program known as AlphaFold solved one of biology’s toughest problems in November 2020. Researchers have often used tools like X-rays, but now this complex information is available as quickly as Google Search.

And AlphaFold can predict the structure of nearly every protein—whether in animals, plants, humans, bacteria, or other organisms—known to science. This ability to quickly see the structure of a protein in three dimensions is valuable to disease scientists and researchers seeking to solve problems like plastic pollution because it gives them a complete, detailed view of the proteins that underlie all biological processes.

However, like everything related to artificial intelligence, this work comes with risks. Research conducted Nature In March, scientists reported that a drug discovery algorithm could generate toxic mixtures, such as the nerve agent VX and other chemical weapons molecules, with slight modifications.

DeepMind claims to have taken a “responsible” path by consulting with more than 30 biology, ethics, safety and security experts to share the benefits of AI in a way that minimizes potential risks.

However, several experts, including former Google AI ethicist Timnit Gebru, have raised concerns about the technology’s ability to increase the concentration of power that leads to discrimination.

Over 500,000 researchers worldwide in 190 countries have used the AlphaFold database to view over two million structures.

Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind, said: statement Thursday: “It was so inspiring to see the many ways the AlphaFold research community has used it to do everything from understanding disease to protecting honey bees, deciphering biological mysteries, and learning more about the origins of life itself.”

The announced promotion is the result of a collaboration between DeepMind, a subsidiary of UK-based Alphabet, and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Finding a new drug that can cure a disease is very difficult, especially when trying to determine how different receptors—proteins that bind to a drug—act as a group.

“This could accelerate the discovery of new drugs in a way we’ve never seen before,” said Karen Akinsanya, head of research and development at Schrödinger’s company in New York.

And perhaps one of the amazing areas where AlphaFold can play a key role is plastic pollution, about 400 million tons of which are produced annually in the world. Scientists at the University of Portsmouth’s Center for Enzyme Innovation are developing a unique solution they call a “whole-cycle plastic economy” that uses enzymes, metabolism-boosting proteins, to break down plastic polymers. So it can be 100% recycled back to its original state – or even recycled into quality virgin plastic – instead of polluting the oceans.

One year after the AlphaFold protein structure database was opened, the DeepMind Institute and European bioinformatics EMBL are expanding it from about 1 million to over 200 million protein structures, covering almost all living organisms whose genome has been sequenced.

“As pioneers in the emerging field of ‘digital biology’, we are pleased to see the enormous potential of artificial intelligence begin to emerge as one of humanity’s most useful tools for advancing scientific discovery and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of life,” Hassabis said.

While DeepMind prides itself on being open source to give scientists wide access, the company’s founder acknowledged during an announcement to journalists that they may need to restrict access in the future.

Source: Daily Mail