One of biology’s biggest mysteries ‘largely solved’ by AI

By Helen Briggs
BBC science correspondent

Publishedduration48 minutes agoshareSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingimage copyrightCasp/DeepMind/TagliabracciTomchick,UTSouthWesternimage captionA DeepMind model of a protein from the Legionnaire's disease bacteria (Casp-14)

One of biology's biggest mysteries has been solved using artificial intelligence, experts have announced.

Predicting how a protein folds into a unique three-dimensional shape has puzzled scientists for half a century.

London-based AI lab, DeepMind, has largely cracked the problem, say the organisers of a scientific challenge.

A better understanding of protein shapes could play a pivotal role in the development of novel drugs to treat disease.

The advance by DeepMind is expected to accelerate research into a host of illnesses, including Covid-19.

Their program determined the shape of proteins at a level of accuracy comparable to expensive and time-consuming lab methods, they say.

Dr Andriy Kryshtafovych, from University of California (UC), Davis in the US, one of the panel of scientific adjudicators, described the achievement as "truly remarkable".

"Being able to investigate the shape of proteins quickly and accurately has the potential to revolutionise life sciences," he said.

DeepMind's Demis Hassabis on The Life Scientific (BBC Radio 4)

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