Google Launches Company Dedicated to Drug Discovery

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Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is launching an operation dedicated to drug discovery.

The new company, called Isomorphic Labs, will build on recent research from DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence lab also owned and operated by Alphabet.

Demis Hassabis, the co-founder and chief executive of DeepMind, will also serve as chief executive of Isomorphic Labs as it maps out its technical strategy and hires its first employees.

Isomorphic and DeepMind announced the creation of the new company on Thursday, but declined to discuss the details of the operation.

Other Alphabet companies are already exploring various aspects of human health, including Verily, which has worked on everything from surgical robots to contact lenses that monitor glucose levels in diabetics; and Calico, which is dedicated to overcoming aging. Isomorphic Labs will be focused solely on drug discovery and new technologies that can help develop medicines.

Last year, DeepMind unveiled a system that automatically predicts the shapes of enzymes and other proteins, the microscopic mechanisms that drive the behavior of all living things. The system, called AlphaFold, could make those predictions with an accuracy well beyond other technologies, according to independent tests, and it could play an important role in drug discovery.

The lab recently released predicted shapes of more than 350,000 proteins, a kind of map for biological processes in humans and other organisms. Independent researchers have used that data to accelerate a wide range of biological research, including efforts to understand the coronavirus.

Other prominent research labs, including a team at the University of Washington, are exploring similar technology. A wide range of start-ups, including the San Francisco-based Atomwise and Recursion Pharmaceuticals in Salt Lake City, are also working to apply new A.I. techniques to drug discovery.