Artificial Intelligence has developed a treatment for cancer in just 30 days. Researchers at the University of Toronto, along with Insilico Medicine, used an AI drug discovery platform called Pharma.AI to create a potential treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer.
According to the New York Post, the new study, which was published in the journal Chemical Science, outlines the novel procedure the researchers used by applying the AlphaFold computer program to identify potential molecular targets or “weak spots” in HCC and provide a hit molecule that could bind to that target. The creation of the potential drug took less than a month to achieve after the target, a protein called CDK20, was selected. The scientists used AlphaFold’s database to accurately predict what the protein looked like and fed its structure into an AI program to design drugs to take down the protein, according to the Toronto Star.
After a second round of generating compounds, the researchers found an even more powerful hit molecule but said that any potential drug must go through clinical trials before it is used on a widespread basis, which the researchers said they would leave to other scientists.
“While the world was fascinated with advances in generative AI in art and language, our generative AI algorithms manage to design potent inhibitors of a target with an AlphaFold-derived structure,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, in a University of Toronto news release.
Scientists have traditionally relied on conventional trial-and-error methods of chemistry to develop new medicines, a process that is slow, expensive and limits the scope of exploration of new medicines. As COVID-19 demonstrated, the speedy development of new drugs or new formulations of existing ones is needed — and increasingly expected by the public. AI has the potential to deliver this speed by transforming materials and molecular discovery, as it has done with just about every branch of science and engineering over the past decade.
“This paper is further evidence of the capacity of AI to transform the drug discovery process with enhanced speed, efficiency, and accuracy,” said Michael Levitt, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and professor of computer science at Stanford University, and one of the study authors. “Bringing together the predictive power of AlphaFold and the target and drug-design power of Insilico Medicine’s Pharma.AI platform, it is possible to imagine we are on the cusp of a new era of AI-powered drug discovery.”
According to the Post, in 2022, AlphaFold had a huge breakthrough in both AI and structural biology by predicting protein structure for the entire human genome.
“At Insilico Medicine we saw this as an incredible opportunity to take these structures and apply them to our end-to-end AI platform in order to generate novel therapeutics to tackle diseases with high unmet need. This paper is an important first step in that direction,” said co-author Feng Ren, chief scientific officer, and co-CEO of Insilico Medicine.
Meanwhile, according to the Toronto Star, Levitt believes AI may soon change the face of medicine.
“I’m sure that AI soon will be incredibly important everywhere, from primary healthcare to preventive healthcare to pharmaceuticals,” he said. “We’re going to be much smarter with AI than we were without AI.”
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