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Google’s DeepMind opens ‘breakthrough’ protein database to the world

AI company has mapped the structure of 98.5% of the proteins in the human body

London-headquartered artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind has opened a database to the world that maps 98.5%  –  approximately 20,000 – proteins in the human body, marking a ‘transformative’ moment for the scientific community.

Last year, DeepMind – which was acquired by Google in 2014 – published research that its AlphaFold programme could accurately predict a protein’s structure from just its sequence alone.

Now, the company has revealed that it has high-quality prediction for the shape of every protein in the human body, offering the ‘most complete and accurate picture of the human proteome to date’.

In addition to the human proteome, DeepMind is opening access to the proteomes of 20 other biologically significant organisms – totalling over 350,000 protein structures overall.

The new database, that will be will be free and accessible to all researchers and companies, is seen to represent a potentially monumental achievement for the life sciences.

Of the approximately 20,000 proteins in the human body mapped by DeepMind, 35.7% of these have been found to be accurate at the atomic level.

Prior to DeepMind’s breakthrough, researchers used traditional techniques to determine protein structures – including X-ray crystallography, cryogenic electron microscopy and other methods.

However, these methods take much longer and require not only time, but also a high number of resources to complete. Before AlphaFold, it took researchers decades to attempt to map just 17% of the proteins in the human body.

Proteins are comprised of chains of amino acids that can fold in numerous ways to form a unique 3D shape, which determines their function in the human body.

DeepMind hopes that, by opening access to its database of proteins, scientists will be able to accelerate research to advance the world’s ‘understanding of the building blocks of life’.

This includes developing new drugs and treatments for disease, as well as designing enzymes that can break down plastics that cannot be recycled.

"We believe this work represents the most significant contribution AI has made to advancing the state of scientific knowledge to date,” said Demis Hassabis, chief executive and co-founder of DeepMind

"And I think it's a great illustration and example of the kind of benefits AI can bring to society. We're just so excited to see what the community is going to do with this,” he added.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

26th July 2021

From: Research

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