Artificial intelligence will be used to develop drugs
A new Alphabet company will use artificial intelligence methods for drug discovery, Google's parent company announced Thursday. It will build on the work of DeepMind, another Alphabet subsidiary, which has done pioneering work using artificial intelligence to predict the structure of proteins.
The new company, Isomorphic Laboratories, will use that success to develop tools to help identify new drugs. DeepMind CHIEF Executive Demis Hassabis will also be CEO of Isomorphic, but the two companies will remain independent and occasionally collaborate, a DeepMind spokesman said.
For years, experts have pointed out that AI could make it faster and cheaper to find new drugs to treat a variety of diseases. For example, AI could help scan databases of potential molecules to find some that are best suited to specific biological targets, or fine-tune proposed compounds. Companies developing ai tools have received hundreds of millions of dollars in investment over the past two years.
Hassabis told Stat News that Isomorphic will try to build models that predict how drugs will interact with the body. It could use DeepMind's work on protein structure to figure out how multiple proteins might interact. The company may not develop its drug but sell its model.
A spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge that The company will focus on developing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.
However, developing and testing drugs can be a bigger challenge than figuring out the structure of proteins. For example, even when the structures of two proteins fit physically, it is hard to tell whether they will stick together at all. A drug candidate based on how it works at the chemical level may not always be effective when given to animals or people.
As chemist and author Derek Lowe pointed out in Science this summer, more than 90 percent of drugs that enter clinical trials end up not working. Most of the problems are not at the molecular level.
DeepMind's work and Isomorphic's planned work may help break through some research bottlenecks but are no quick solutions to the myriad challenges of drug development. Helen Walden, a professor of structural biology at The University of Glasgow, previously told The Verge that "The laborious, resource-consuming work of doing biochemical and biological assessments of things like drug function" will continue.