In late 2020, Alphabet’s DeepMind division unveiled its novel protein folding prediction algorithm, AlphaFold, helping solve a scientific dilemma that had baffled researchers for half a century. In the year since the beta release, half a million scientists from around the world have accessed the results of the AI system and cited them more than 4,000 times in their own studies. On Thursday, DeepMind announced that it is increasing that access even further by radically expanding its publicly available AlphaFold Protein Structure Database (AlphaFoldDB) – from 1 million entries to 200 million entries.
Alphabet has partnered with EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) for this endeavor, which covers proteins from all kingdoms of life — animal, plant, fungal, bacterial, and others. The results can be viewed on the UniProt, Ensembl and OpenTargets websites or downloaded individually via GitHub, “for the human proteome and for the proteomes of 47 other key organisms important to research and global health,” according to the AlphaFold website.
“AlphaFold is the unique and meaningful advance in life sciences that demonstrates the power of AI,” said Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in a press statement Thursday. “Determining the 3D structure of a protein used to take many months or years, now it takes seconds. AlphaFold has already accelerated and enabled massive discoveries, including breaking the structure of the nuclear pore complex of the entire protein universe, we can expect more biological mysteries to be solved every day.”
AlphaFold has been used in a range of applications from advancing leprosy and Chagas disease research to protecting honey bees and tackling plastic pollution. DeepMind has also developed AIs that can outperform top human gamers, master games without knowing the rules, and even improve traffic patterns. DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman left the company in January to start a new company, Inflection.AI, with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, just before a former employee accused the company of ongoing sexual harassment.
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