Alphabet’s DeepMind Spins Out Isomorphic Labs to Use AI for Drug Discovery

Matt Swayne
Isomorphic Labs
Isomorphic Labs, which was spun out of DeepMind, may help researchers design drugs through a richer understanding about protein folding and how proteins interact with each other.

Isomorphic Labs, which will use artificial intelligence — AI — for drug discovery, will be the latest Alphabet company after being spun out of the firm’s DeepMind project, according to a blog post.

Isomorphic Labs is described as “a commercial venture with the mission to reimagine the entire drug discovery process from first principles with an AI-first approach and, ultimately, to model and understand some of the fundamental mechanisms of life.”

Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of Isomorphic Labs and DeepMind, writes that the new company is a next step in what is becoming a biotech revolution.

“Last year DeepMind’s breakthrough AI system AlphaFold2 was recognised as a solution to the 50-year-old grand challenge of protein folding, capable of predicting the 3D structure of a protein directly from its amino acid sequence to atomic-level accuracy. This has been a watershed moment for computational and AI methods for biology,” Hassabis writes.

Ultimately, Isomorphic will try to build models that can predict how drugs will interact with the body, Hassabis told Stat News. DeepMind’s demonstration of protein structure could help researchers understand the interaction of multiple proteins.

The creation of Isomorphic Labs could be a signal that DeepMind’s technology — which has notched a number of AI breakthroughs — such as like AlphaGo, a program that beat the world champion at the complex game of Go —  is moving from scientific discover to scientific application with the move.

“We are at an exciting moment in history now where these techniques and methods are becoming powerful and sophisticated enough to be applied to real-world problems including scientific discovery itself,” writes Hassabis. “One of the most important applications of AI that I can think of is in the field of biological and medical research, and it is an area I have been passionate about addressing for many years. Now the time is right to push this forward at pace, and with the dedicated focus and resources that Isomorphic Labs will bring.”

The name of the startup is derived from the compatibility between biology and information science.

The CEO explains: “At its most fundamental level, I think biology can be thought of as an information processing system, albeit an extraordinarily complex and dynamic one. Taking this perspective implies there may be a common underlying structure between biology and information science – an isomorphic mapping between the two – hence the name of the company.”

Hassabis expects to serve as the CEO of both companies during the initial phase of development for the company. He indicates the dual duties will facilitate collaboration and define and shaping Isomorphic’s vision and culture.

“As pioneers in the emerging field of ‘digital biology’, we look forward to helping usher in an amazingly productive new age of biomedical breakthroughs,” writes Hassabis. “Isomorphic’s mission could not be a more important one: to use AI to accelerate drug discovery, and ultimately, find cures for some of humanity’s most devastating diseases.”

Alphabet Inc. is holding company headquartered created through a restructuring of Google

 

 

 

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