Having laid waste to the Atari classics and reached superhuman performance in chess and the Chinese board game, Go, Google’s DeepMind outfit has turned its artificial intelligence on one of the toughest problems in science.
The result, says The Guardian , was predictable. At an international conference in Cancun on Sunday, organisers announced that DeepMind’s latest AI program, AlphaFold, had beaten all-comers at a particularly fiendish task: predicting the 3D shapes of proteins, the fundamental molecules of life.
The arcane nature of “protein folding”, a mind-boggling form of molecular origami, is rarely discussed outside scientific circles, but it is a problem of profound importance. The machinery of biology is built from proteins and it a protein’s shape defines its function. Understand how proteins fold up and researchers could usher in a new era of scientific and medical progress.