An artificial intelligence group says their program has successfully predicted the structure of almost every protein known to science – effectively solving one of biology’s “great challenges” and paving the way for new discoveries and technologies in fields as diverse as medicine, Food security, etc. paved climate science.
DeepMind, an AI firm owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced Thursday that it has expanded its AlphaFold program Open online database to include more than 200 million protein structures.
The vast catalog now includes the “entire protein universe,” DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said in a news conference — from the sequenced genes of almost every organism on the planet.
Proteins are long, complex chains of amino acids that form the building blocks of life. Scientists have long tried to unravel how these chains are elegantly twisted and folded into 3D shapes because understanding their structure can provide valuable insight into their function. For example, knowing the specific shape of a protein and how its different molecules interact can help researchers narrow down potential targets for medical treatments.
AlphaFold’s updated database includes protein structures for plants, bacteria, animals, and other organisms, according to DeepMind.
These updates provide “new opportunities for researchers to use AlphaFold to advance their work on important issues including sustainability, food insecurity and neglected diseases.” Hassabis wrote in a blog post Published Thursday about the milestone.
“By demonstrating that AI can predict the shape of a protein down to atomic, scale, and minute accuracy, AlphaFold not only provided a solution to a 50-year grand challenge, but also became the first major proof of our founding thesis: that artificial intelligence can dramatically accelerate scientific discovery and, in turn, advance humankind,” he wrote.
AlphaFold launched in 2020, and last year DeepMind wowed the scientific community by unveiling a catalog of structures that encompassed virtually every protein in the human body. The so-called AlphaFold protein structure databasebuilt in collaboration with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory included hundreds of thousands of newly predicted protein structures.
According to Hassabis, the wealth of information is already being used by researchers around the world to study topics ranging from antibiotic resistance to plastic pollution.
For example, researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the UK announced in July 2021 that they were using the database to help develop enzymes for recycling certain types of single-use plastic.
“AlphaFold provides us with an exciting new template library to develop faster, more stable and cheaper enzymes for plastics recycling,” said John McGeehan, Director of the University of Portsmouth’s Center for Enzyme Innovation. it said in a statement at the time.
According to Hassabis, DeepMind is working to further expand its database, with a particular focus on applications related to drug development, basic biological research, climate science, quantum chemistry and fusion.
“AlphaFold is a glimpse into the future,” he wrote, “and what might be possible with computational and AI methods applied to biology.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/protein-folding-google-rcna40437 The AI group says it has solved one of biology’s “great challenges”.