For the first time, artificial intelligence developed by DeepMind, one of the world’s premier AI labs, has been used to significantly advance scientific research. The project, known as AlphaFold, uses AI to predict the configuration of a protein. With an estimated 10300 configurations, the task is highly complex. In addition, this week we highlight predictive models to forecast the impact of public policy decisions on mental health, significant new investments in the virtual trial space, the White House’s $1 billion investment in at-home COVID-19 test manufacturing and research related to our “second brain.”
Each week we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
AlphaFold, an AI-powered protein folding model developed by DeepMind, represents the first time that AI has significantly advanced scientific research. Highlighting the challenge to understanding a protein’s structure, any given protein can theoretically have 10300 different configurations. Prior to AlphaFold, approximately 17% of the roughly 20,000 proteins in the human body had known 3-D structures. After AlphaFold’s development, we have 3-D models for 98.5% of these proteins. Better yet, DeepMind has open-sourced its program, allowing researchers across the globe to benefit from the innovation. Understanding a protein’s configuration could ease the process of identifying molecules (drugs) to treat diseases.
The mental health toll of the pandemic continues to be felt across the globe. Twenty-five percent of people aged 18 to 24 surveyed in June 2020 reported increased substance use to cope with pandemic-related stress. From July to October 2020, suicides in Japan rose by 16% year over year. This article explores the use of predictive models to predict the impact of policy decisions on mental health.
Virtual trial platform provider Science 37 closed its special purpose acquisition company deal with LifeSci Acquisition II Corp to snag another $235 million in cash funding and a valuation of north of $1 billion. Similarly, two virtual trial companies, Lightship and Slope, recently closed additional financing rounds of $40 million and $20 million, respectively. Funds continue to flow into the virtual trial platform and virtual research organization space.
The White House has allocated an additional $1 billion into manufacturing of at-home COVID-19 tests. The investment is expected to quadruple the number of at-home, rapid tests available to Americans by December.
This article explores a nervous system in the human gut, referred to as a “second brain” that largely operates independent of the body’s central nervous system. Michigan State University researchers believe that their latest findings could lead to new treatments for common intestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.