London-based AI company DeepMind said it has nearly completed a database of almost every known protein, a breakthrough that is expected to significantly accelerate the time required to make biological discoveries, revolutionizing basic science.
In July 2021, DeepMind, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, announced it had predicted the shape of all human proteins, helping to better understand human health and disease. That database has since been expanded 200-fold, and now contains more than 200 million predicted protein structures. In the year since its launch, more than 500,000 researchers around the world have accessed the AlphaFold database to view more than 2 million structures, the company said. The research community has already used AlphaFold for everything from understanding diseases, to protecting honey bees, to deciphering biological puzzles, to looking deeper into the origins of life itself. These structures are now available via a public database hosted by the European Bioinformatics Institute at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.
Prediction of a protein’s structure from its DNA sequence alone has been one of biology’s greatest challenges. Current experimental methods to determine the shape of a single protein take months or years in a laboratory, which is why only about 190,000, or 0.01% of known protein structures, have been solved. DeepMind’s chief executive Demis Hassabis said the AI had “provided structural biologists with this powerful new tool now, where you can look up a 3D structure of a protein almost as easily as doing a keyword Google search”. “[It’s] opening up huge opportunities for AlphaFold to have impact on . . . sustainability, food insecurity and neglected diseases,” he added.
“As pioneers in the emerging field of ‘digital biology’, we’re excited to see the huge potential of AI starting to be realized as one of humanity’s most useful tools for advancing scientific discovery and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of life,” Hassabis said in a blog posting.
IN OTHER NEWS THIS WEEK
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Deal Struck To Create European Satellite Rival to Starlink And Project Kuiper
Paris-based Eutelsat Communications agreed to acquire the U.K.’s OneWeb Global, a deal that would combine the two companies’ separate fleets of Internet-delivering satellites, helping Europe in its bid to achieve technology sovereignty and reduce its dependency on U.S. tech giant.The two European satellite companies will combine their fleets. Eutelsat will contribute its 36 so-called geostationary-orbit satellites to OneWeb’s fleet of 428 low-Earth-orbit satellites already in use. Elon Musk’s Starlink, operated by his Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, has a fleet of some 2,900 low-Earth-orbit satellites. Jeff Bezos has also entered the fray with Amazon.com Project Kuiper. OneWeb, Project Kuiper and Starlink are among a handful of businesses and government agencies racing to send broadband satellites into orbit, betting that in some cases and in some markets, they can compete with traditional broadband providers.
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