The news: A team from AI pharma startup Insilico Medicine, working with researchers at the University of Toronto, took 21 days to create 30,000 designs for molecules that target a protein linked with fibrosis (tissue scarring). They synthesized six of these molecules in the lab and then tested two in cells; the most promising one was tested in mice. The researchers concluded it was potent against the protein and showed “drug-like” qualities. All in all, the process took just 46 days. The research was published in Nature Biotechnology this week.
The method: The system examines previous research and patents for molecules known to work against the drug target, prioritizing new structures that could be synthesized in the lab. It’s similar to what a human chemist might do to seek new therapies—just much faster.
Context: Getting a new drug to market is hugely costly and time consuming: it can take 10 years and cost as much as $2.6 billion, with the vast majority of candidates failing at the testing stage, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. No wonder, then, that there’s so much work under way on using AI to expedite the process. DeepMind is among the companies exploring pharmaceutical research as a potential avenue for its algorithms.
A word of caution: Although the research looks promising, it’s still very much a proof of concept. We’re a long way from AI-designed drugs being created, let alone sold to patients. We explored the issue in this article from our TR10 issue earlier this year.
Sign up here for our daily newsletter The Download to get your dose of the latest must-read news from the world of emerging tech.
AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.
What’s next for AI in 2024
Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year
OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora
The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.
Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.
Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.