Saturday, February 22, 2020

Notch One Up for Artificial Intelligence

There are plenty of bright lights who warn that artificial intelligence, AI, could be the end of us. Elon Musk is one. More recently, Yuval Noah Harari, has written of a world in which AI becomes the ruling force that may or may not keep us around for muscle. It all sounds quite bleak, dire.

It's not a one-sided picture of dystopia looming. Far from it. I caught an item this morning on BBC's global podcast about AI and antibiotics-resistant disease control.
In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI). 
It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance. 
A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days. 
The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.
I wasn't sure if this was BBC hyping something for a story so I searched science web sites and, wow, the story is being posted just about everywhere.

MIT broke the story two days ago. I assume that's because it was MIT's own researchers who unleashed AI to come up with new antibiotics.
The computer model, which can screen more than a hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days, is designed to pick out potential antibiotics that kill bacteria using different mechanisms than those of existing drugs. 
“We wanted to develop a platform that would allow us to harness the power of artificial intelligence to usher in a new age of antibiotic drug discovery,” says James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and Department of Biological Engineering. “Our approach revealed this amazing molecule which is arguably one of the more powerful antibiotics that has been discovered.” 
In their new study, the researchers also identified several other promising antibiotic candidates, which they plan to test further. They believe the model could also be used to design new drugs, based on what it has learned about chemical structures that enable drugs to kill bacteria.
Now if they can figure out how to use AI to put the malevolent genie of 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue back inside his bottle, we'll be onto something.

1 comment:

Toby said...

Some Big Pharma will get hold of the patent and charge mega $$$$ for a single dose.