DeepMind says its AlphaFold tool has successfully predicted the structure of nearly all proteins known to science. From today, the Alphabet-owned AI lab is offering its database of over 200 million proteins to anyone for free.
When DeepMind introduced AlphaFold in 2020, it took the science community by surprise. Scientists had spent decades trying to understand how proteins, which are essential to life, are structured; it was considered one of the “grand challenges” of biology. Understanding how they are shaped is crucial to understanding how they function.
The latest data release gives the database a massive boost. The update includes structures for “plants, bacteria, animals, and many, many other organisms, opening up huge opportunities for AlphaFold to have impact on important issues such as sustainability, fuel, food insecurity, and neglected diseases,” Demis Hassabis, DeepMind’s founder and CEO, told reporters on a call this week.
The expanded database could act as an important resource for scientists, helping them to better understand diseases. It could also speed innovation in drug discovery and biology.
Since its release in 2020, researchers have already used AlphaFold to understand proteins that affect the health of honeybees and to develop an effective malaria vaccine.
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