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Microsoft provides $5M to UW Medication to make use of AI to speed up response to subsequent pandemic

Microsoft gives $5M to UW Medicine to use AI to accelerate response to next pandemic


Scientists are utilizing software program to design new biomolecules that deal with most cancers and block viral an infection. (Photograph by Ian Haydon, UW Medication Institute for Protein Design.)

The velocity of the creation of vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 was a contemporary marvel. You would possibly have already got already gotten yours, somewhat greater than a yr after the virus overtook the planet. However what if vaccines and therapeutics may emerge even sooner in response to the subsequent pandemic?

That’s one of many targets of a $5 million reward from Microsoft to the Institute for Protein Design on the College of Washington Faculty of Medication. The funding will probably be used to seek out new methods to use synthetic intelligence to protein design. One outcome, they hope, will probably be sooner creation of therapeutics and vaccines within the subsequent pandemic.

On this episode of the GeekWire Well being Tech Podcast, we speak with Microsoft’s chief scientific officer, Eric Horvitz, and the director of the UW institute, David Baker, about their collaboration, and their aspirations for the brand new age of synthetic intelligence and biotechnology.

Eric Horvitz, Microsoft chief scientific officer. (Microsoft Photograph)

“On the whole, my feeling has been for 3 many years that AI typically, together with machine studying, is a sleeping big in healthcare, each within the biosciences in addition to in in medical medication,” Horvitz mentioned. “And I believe we’re seeing the waking of that sleeping big now.”

It’s the most recent stage within the evolution of UW Medication’s Institute for Protein Design, which focuses on the creation of de novo proteins, constructed from scratch quite than derived from nature. Proteins are molecules that perform the important capabilities in our our bodies and all residing issues.

“When you take a protein that exists in nature, and also you adapt it as a therapeutic, it’s by no means actually good,” Baker mentioned. “It didn’t evolve for that objective.”

David Baker, director of the Institute for Protein Design. (UW Medication Photograph)

Nevertheless, he defined, “if you may make issues from scratch, you then actually can put in all of the properties you need, and omit all of the properties you don’t need. After which as machine studying positive aspects steam on this space, and the capabilities develop and develop, I believe it is going to be actual game-changer.”

For instance of the potential, considered one of Baker’s colleagues on the Institute for Protein Design, Neil King, has designed COVID-19 vaccine candidates that look like stronger than these at present in use. These vaccine candidates are at present present process medical trials.

In asserting the reward, Microsoft and UW Medication mentioned they may begin by figuring out areas the place neural networks and large-scale computing will be utilized to protein design, after which collaborate on the event and manufacturing of latest proteins for testing within the UW Medication lab.

The implications of this new period of AI and protein design transcend vaccines and pandemics, Baker mentioned. “What I’d encourage everybody to consider is, now that we will design proteins with intent, what is feasible?” he mentioned. “I believe we’re actually simply restricted by our imaginations.”

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