Alphabet has launched a new company called Isomorphic Labs that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to discover new pharmaceutical drugs. The company would build on progress made by Alphabet’s DeepMind whose AI uses a model called AlphaFold2 to predict the shape of proteins with incredible accuracy.
“I am delighted to announce the creation of a new Alphabet company – Isomorphic Labs – a commercial enterprise whose mission is to reinvent the entire drug discovery process from first principles with an AI-driven approach. and ultimately to model and understand some of the fundamental workings of life, ”wrote Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of Isomorphic Labs (and DeepMind), in a blog.
A spokesperson said The edge that Isomorphic Labs and DeepMind will remain separate companies despite the use of somewhat similar techniques. In addition, Isomorphic Labs may not develop its own drugs but rather sell its models through the development of partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.
Although the news is making headlines around the world, Isomorphic Labs is not the first company to try to apply AI to medical discoveries. Nvidia cooperated with AstraZeneca, Schrödinger and the University of Florida to try their turn in drug research with the help of AI. Pfizer, in collaboration with IBM’s Watson, has been working on immuno-oncology drugs. Finally, UBC in cooperation with Microsoft tried to use its cloud computing in the development of drugs.
In his blog, Hassabis highlights how For over a decade, DeepMind has been at the forefront of advancing the state of the art in AI, primarily through the use of games such as AlphaGo, the program which beat the world champion to the game of go. Today, Hassabis believes that these “techniques and methods have become sufficiently powerful and sophisticated to be applied to real world problems, including scientific discovery itself.” If his hopes prove to be successful, we could witness an unprecedented new era in drug development.