This vast database could upset scientific research

The database includes information that could be extremely useful to scientists trying to solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems. Seventeen of the proteins in the database are linked to “neglected tropical diseases”, which affect the lives of more than a billion people worldwide. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) predicts that the database could help researchers discover molecules that can treat often overlooked diseases faster than ever before. The DNDI itself uses the database in its attempt to combat Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

DeepMind and EMBL’s decision to make the database free is also a huge benefit for scientists and researchers in developing countries. Some of these countries tend to be disproportionately affected by the diseases that AlphaFold could help fight, and the lack of a financial barrier could be key to supporting frontline research efforts.

Research scientist and head of AlphaFold at DeepMind, John Jumper has high hopes for the database he helped create. Jumper says, “We launched AlphaFold in hopes that other teams could learn and build on the progress we’ve made. Many other AI research organizations have now entered the field and are building on AlphaFold’s advancements to create new breakthroughs. This is truly a new era in structural biology, and AI-based methods are going to drive incredible progress.

Database assembly and the models it uses are just another pair of examples of how artificial intelligence is changing the world. AI has made great strides in recent months. While the concept generally receives negative press, mostly due to fears that it could one day become self-aware and bring about the end of mankind, in reality, it does a lot of good. In addition to curing diseases, scientists plan to use AI programs for everything from spotting and assisting drug addicts to gambling and fairness in sporting events.

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