Back to the complete issue
Thursday, 27 May 2021

Alexa, design some antibiotics

The role of AI in the post-antibiotic world: Researchers from IBM have designed AI that can generate the design of molecules for new antibiotics, according to Vox. The AI system can reduce the traditionally expensive and time-intensive process of designing new antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) to a matter of days, and has outperformed other leading methods for synthesizing AMPs, according to the research paper published in Nature.

Why does this matter? Experts have warned of the post-antibiotic world, a phenomenon caused by our over-reliance on antibiotics in the treatment of crops, farm animals and humans. Globally, around 700k people die of drug-resistant diseases each year, and the World Health Organization warns this number could rise to 10 mn by 2050, exacerbated by using antibiotics to treat secondary infections during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How the IBM AI works: The system uses a generative model with three basic steps. First, the researchers feed a large database of known peptide molecules to the AI. The model learns the basic rules of molecule design by analyzing the relationship between molecules and their properties. From there, researchers can input their desired and undesirable traits, like low toxicity, and the AI will design the molecule based on the parameters. This method has reportedly successfully designed two antimicrobial peptides with wide ranging applications in safely treating pathogens in lab mice.

AI technology had another groundbreaking success in biology recently, when Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind successfully solved the elusive protein folding problem using their AI system AlphaFold. The system successfully predicted how amino acids will fold to create proteins, an issue that stumped science for over 50 years and has far reaching implications on the manufacturing of new medicine and understanding existing diseases caused by misfolded proteins.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; Palm Hills Developments (tax ID: 432-737-014), a leading developer of commercial and residential properties; Etisalat Misr (tax ID: 235-071-579), the leading telecoms provider in Egypt; and Industrial Development Group (IDG) (tax ID:266-965-253), the leading builder of industrial parks in Egypt.