The database includes information that could be incredibly useful to scientists trying to solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems. Seventeen of the database’s proteins relate to “neglected tropical diseases,” which affect the lives of over a billion people worldwide. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) predicts that the database could help researchers discover molecules capable of treating often overlooked illnesses faster than ever before. DNDI itself is using the database in its attempt to tackle Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.
DeepMind and EMBL’s decision to make the database free is also a huge benefit to scientists and researchers in developing countries. Some of those countries tend to be disproportionately affected by the diseases AlphaFold could help tackle, and the lack of a financial barrier could be key to assisting frontline research efforts.
Research Scientist and AlphaFold Lead at DeepMind John Jumper has high hopes for the database he helped create. Jumper says: “We released AlphaFold in the hopes that other teams could learn from and build on the advances we made. Many other AI research organizations have now entered the field and are building on AlphaFold’s advances to create further breakthroughs. This is truly a new era in structural biology, and AI-based methods are going to drive incredible progress.”
The database’s 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 usually receives negative press, mainly due to fears it could one day become self-aware and bring about the end of humanity, in reality, it’s doing a lot of good. In addition to curing disease, scientists are planning on using AI programs for everything from spotting and assisting gambling addicts, to making sporting events fairer.
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