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This AI Software Nearly Predicted Omicron’s Tricky Structure

ItemDate=2022-01-11 16:31:09 Status=publish

TopicTaglist=['H13', 'V7']

#News(General) [ via IoTGroup ]

The way predictions raced ahead of experiments on Omicron’s spike protein reflects a recent sea change in molecular biology brought about by AI.The first software capable of accurately predicting protein structures became widely available only months before Omicron appeared thanks to competing research teams at


’s UK-based AI lab DeepMind and at the University of Washington.

But the fact that he could easily experiment with powerful protein prediction AI illustrates how the recent breakthroughs are already changing the ways biologists work and think.Subramaniam says he received four or five emails from people proffering predicted Omicron spike structures while working towards his lab’s results.Direct measurements of protein structure will remain the ultimate yardstick Subramaniam says but he expects AI predictions to become increasingly central to research—including on future disease outbreaks.

Because a protein’s shape determines how it behaves knowing its structure can help all kinds of biology research from studies of evolution to work on disease.Deciphering a protein’s structure traditionally involved painstaking lab work.In late 2020 the long-standing hope that computers could predict protein structure from an amino acid sequence suddenly became real after decades of slow progress.DeepMind software called AlphaFold proved so accurate in a contest for protein prediction that the challenge’s cofounder John Moult a professor at University of Maryland declared the problem solved.“You’re in this weird situation where there’s been this major advance in your field but you can’t build on it ” David Baker whose lab at University of Washington works on protein structure prediction told WIRED last year.

Both are based on machine learning algorithms honed to predict protein structures by training on a collection of more than 100 000 known structures.Suddenly the world had two ways to predict protein structures.Minkyung Baek a postdoctoral researcher in

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