Artificial intelligence is to be used to tackle the most deadly parasitic diseases in the developing world, tech company DeepMind has announced. The BBC reports: The London-based Alphabet-owned lab will work with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDI) to treat Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis. Scientists spend years in laboratories mapping protein structures. But last year, DeepMind’s AlphaFold program was able to achieve the same accuracy in a matter of days. Many diseases are linked to the roles of proteins in: catalysing chemical reactions (enzymes); fighting disease (antibodies); and acting as chemical messengers (hormones such as insulin). And knowing the 3D structure of a protein is important in developing treatments for, among others, cancer, dementia and infectious diseases.
Prof Dame Janet Thornton, of the European Bioinformatics Institute, told BBC News: “Most new drugs in recent years have been developed using protein-structural data as one part of the process. “There are, however, many other aspects which need to be taken into account, which, due to lack of data, may not be amenable to AI approaches.” But the predictions would be “particularly valuable” for pathogens with unknown protein structures, including some neglected diseases. “Developing new AI approaches for designing such drugs is a new challenge but one to which the new AI techniques can be applied and this holds out great hope for the future,” Dame Janet added.
What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.