Scientists used to spend several months or years understanding the structure of proteins before an AI program known as AlphaFold solved one of biology's toughest problems in November 2020. Researchers often used tools like X-rays, but this complex information is now available as fast as a Google search.
AlphaFold can predict the structure of nearly all proteins, whether in animals, plants, humans, bacteria or other organisms, known to science.
This ability to quickly see protein structure in three dimensions is valuable to scientists seeking to treat diseases and researchers looking to solve problems such as plastic pollution, as it gives them a fully detailed look at the proteins that underpin all biological processes.
But there are concerns that the scientists' drug-discovery algorithm could, with a few minor tweaks, generate toxic formulations such as nerve agent VX and other chemical warfare molecules.
DeepMind revealed that it has taken a "responsible" path by consulting with more than 30 experts in biology, ethics, security and safety so that the benefits of AI can be shared in a way that minimizes potential risks.