June 21, 2021 at 5:00 am ET
As the vaccine rollout continues nationwide and all Americans over the age of 16 have become eligible, the sheer speed of groundbreaking vaccine development – designed in just two days in Moderna’s case, and just one for Pfizer’s – has stunned the public. To the public, the vaccines were designed with almost futuristic speed, and never before has the urgency around medicine permeated the nation conversation in the way it has in recent months.
As a result, now Americans everywhere are asking a simple question: What will medicine look like in the post-COVID world of tomorrow? What breakthroughs could happen next?
We can imagine a world in which the most aggressive tumors are defeated with the same speed and effectiveness as the vaccines. We can envision a world in which we’re discovering proteins and amino acids that are the antidote to viruses and diseases we have yet to even uncover, one in which science will be able to shave years and years of time off of research to solve pressing, vexing health care challenges by using self-learning technologies and algorithms.
Computational power. Ultra-efficiency. Next-century approaches to technology. All delivering unprecedented speed and quality of medicine unbeknownst to humankind.
That story of tomorrow is being written at this moment, and that future is actually right now. Machine-learning technologies and artificial intelligence being developed today will become the answers for our global health challenges tomorrow, and the technology of yesterday’s science fiction is quietly becoming the reality of this moment. How?
AI is accelerating a game-changing shift in therapeutic development, helping us develop a generation of new protein drugs that can be available faster, cheaper and better than ever before. Like never before in history, AI is helping us understand how DNA encodes for protein structure and function.
Why does that matter? Because today, 70 percent of drugs are proteins, which means cutting-edge new techniques specifically focused on proteins means almost limitless new opportunities to treat the gamut of our most puzzling diseases. To invest in protein discovery is to invest in game-changing scale for consumers and medicine as a whole.
More importantly, by leveraging complex algorithms and computational power, AI allows us to develop those novel protein therapeutics without having to first discover them through trial and error. Supercomputers have the ability to source millions of protein sequences and structures in milliseconds, learning the underlying rules by which they function in order to generate new protein structures at previously unimaginable rates.
For most of America, that means rather than taking two or three years to develop through a lengthy research and development process, new protein therapeutics could be available for later-stage testing in just a few months.
It means that we’ll be able to cure what was once deemed uncurable, faster and better.
Startups like mine, Generate Biomedicines, are solely focused on this. As each day passes, our machine-learning technology discovers new possibilities. And that means there’s inevitably going to be a disruption in the marketplace.
Already in the past year, Generate’s machine-learning platform successfully developed dozens of molecules designed to neutralize COVID-19 — a process that would have normally taken several months — in less than 17 days. Those molecules are now under development in partnership with the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium.
Here’s the bottom line: If there is one thing that we’ve learned from this pandemic, it is that medicine – from therapeutic design to clinical trials, to going to market – must happen with greater speed and greater urgency than ever before. And thanks to the technology of tomorrow, we’re on the cusp of a generational breakthrough in health care. The industry has reached a point at which self-learning computers can truly transform how we cure diseases, fight cancer and develop groundbreaking new drugs – at higher quality and lower price points.
Because even as this pandemic continues, each day we’re making new scientific discoveries and developing new proteins to prepare for the next one. Tomorrow’s answers to the steepest health care challenges are arriving today.
And the future is happening right now.
Mike Nally is the CEO of Generate Biomedicines.
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