Google owner Alphabet has started an artificial intelligence company to discover new drugs.
UK-registered Isomorphic Labs will use technology from its sister company DeepMind “to accelerate drug discovery and ultimately find cures for some of humanity’s most devastating diseases,” said Demis Hassabis, director from DeepMind, in a blog post. He added that he would also become the managing director of Isomorphic Labs.
Scientists around the world were amazed in July when DeepMind unveiled how its AlphaFold2 technology could be used to predict the shape of every protein in the human body with near-perfect accuracy.
DeepMind’s model can solve one of the trickiest problems in biology by taking an amino acid sequence and mapping the meanders of its shape. The algorithm could help replace or improve the painstaking lab work to identify the structures of proteins, which dictate their behavior.
Pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers are eager to use the tool, which DeepMind has made available on an open source basis, to discover new targets for drugs.
Its speed could reduce the time to discover innovative treatments, even if the process of clinical trials is still expected to take several years.
DeepMind said it would use the technology to try to find cures for Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, two of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Isomorphic Labs will partner with pharmaceutical and biomedical companies and is currently recruiting scientists, engineers and machine learning experts.
“At its most basic level, I think biology can be thought of as an information processing system, although it is extraordinarily complex and dynamic,” Hassabis added.
“Taking this perspective implies that there may be a common underlying structure between biology and information science – an isomorphic mapping between the two – hence the name of the company. “
Hassabis hopes the lab will use AI beyond AlphaFold2 to predict complex biological phenomena.
The AlphaFold2 technology and database, which has been formed on hundreds of thousands of known structures, will remain open source for external use.
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