DeepMind 's Major Scientific Breakthrough 2020 | Solving COVID 19 | Artificial Intelligence

DeepMind 's Major Scientific Breakthrough 2020 | Solving COVID 19 | Artificial Intelligence

DeepMind, an AI based startup founded in 2010 and acquired by Google in 2014 is based in London and it's work has been an inspiration to me since years. And now it has solved a gigantic biological problem called the Protein Folding Problem which has been prevailing since 50 years and I feel like my words won't do justice to the level of achievement .

What Happened  ? :

This happened in a biennial competition called CASP14 (Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction), where the participant's are provided a DNA sequence and they have to produce a 3 Dimensional structure of the protein sequence .

So, DeepMind with it's new model named AlphaFold 2 was able to predict the protein's structure within an atom's width of accuracy on two-third of the cases and was highly accurate on the remaining one-third cases . 

“This computational work represents a stunning advance on the protein-folding problem,” - Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel Prize–winning structural biologist.

What was the Problem ? :

 Let's understand actually what was the problem -

So , proteins are the basic building block of life which are basically large and complex molecules  made up of chains of amino acids and what each type of protein does mainly depends on it's unique 3D structure . So, if we can figure out what structure of protein affects what function we can basically cure everything by producing the right drug . But figuring out what structure a protein folds into has been a very big big problem in molecular biology since the past 50 years . This problem is called Protein Folding Problem.

How did we tackle it until now ? :

That doesn't mean we were completely clueless about the structure since years because we were able to get the structure by using technique like  X - Ray crystallography where we were able to know the internal structure of the protein sequence due to diffraction of the X-rays .But the problem with this process is that it is highly inefficient as it takes around $120,000 and around an year  to get structure of  just a single protein, according to the University Of Toronto .

DeepMind's Breakthrough :

But as of now Alpha Fold 2 is able to accurately predict the structure in a matter of days or hours  .

deepmind breakthrough science google protein sequence
Protein Structure that were predicted by artificial intelligence (Blue) and experimentally determined (Green) match almost perfectly.

If you are an AI enthusiast like me then you will be amazed to know that AlphaFold 2 is able to do all of this by being trained on 128  TPUs (Tensor Processing Units) which is approximately 100-200 GPUs and which is pretty less as compared to the model trained to make to AlphaGo and different State of the Art Machine Learning Models . Oh, and the model was just trained for just some weeks .

An Interesting story :

 The Director of Department of Protein Evolution -Andrei Lupas who was one of the judges at the CASP event  wanted to verify AlphaFold 2 by using it to predict the structure of a portion of a protein, which he has been unable to get by using X-Ray Crystallization for almost a decade and the system was able to predict the structure in just half an hour . 

“AlphaFold’s astonishingly accurate models have allowed us to solve a protein structure we were stuck on for close to a decade, relaunching our effort to understand how signals are transmitted across cell membranes.” - Andrei Lupas 

Now , you must have an idea how big of a breakthrough it is in both the fields of Science and Engineering .

How this could help solve COVID-19 ? :

DeepMind has been using AlphaFold 2 to predict the structure of the protein that is found in the virus SARS-CoV-2 (Corona Virus) which is called ORF3a . 

This might help scientists to study the structure and form the appropriate medicine to cure it completely .

At the end, I would say that we all should be inspired by such events because I believe these things literally push the human race forward .  ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ––


Saumya Ranjan Nayak

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