July 25, 2024
Digital Media Latest News

AI meets biotech? Ex-Meta scientists debut a giant AI protein design bar

“Simulating 500 million years of evolution with a language model.”

EvolutionaryScale, a startup company founded by several AI researchers who used to work at Meta, is releasing a milestone AI tool capable of generating new proteins.

Named ESM3, the tool is a “frontier language model for biology” that will help scientists craft entirely new molecules in a process that they say mirrors half a billion years of evolution. It allows interactive prompting to create proteins, enabling scientists to advance applications from drug discovery and materials science to carbon capture.

“ESM3 takes a step towards the future where AI is a tool to engineer biology from first principles in the same way we engineer structures, machines and microchips, and write computer programs,” the company said. With its capabilities, the model has the potential to enhance discovery in a variety of fields, from new cancer treatments to capturing carbon.

“ESM3 is trained across the natural diversity of the Earth—billions of proteins, from the Amazon rainforest, to the depths of the oceans, extreme environments like hydrothermal vents, and the microbes in a handful of soil,” it added.

The team asked the AI model to generate a new green fluorescent protein (GFP) — a light-emitting protein which is in jellyfish and coral that has been developed into a powerful molecular biology tool to mark and track proteins and other molecules in cells. It came up with a novel fluorescent protein that was then compared to a comprehensive database of known proteins. The sequences of the new AI-generated fluorescent protein and the existing fluorescent protein most similar to it were just 58% identical.

“From the rate of diversification of GFPs found in nature, we estimate that this generation of a new fluorescent protein is equivalent to simulating over 500 million years of evolution,” the scientists wrote.

EvolutionaryScale has announced that it is now partnering with Amazon Web Services and Nvidia, and their new AI model will be available to select customers.

This new breakthrough in AI will undoubtedly deepen responsibility concerns that loom over the development of artificial intelligence. Notably, Alexander Rives, the EvolutionaryScale co-founder and chief-scientist, was among the 160+ researchers who called for setting principles to govern the “responsible development of AI protein design”.

Learn more about ESM3 and EvolutionaryScale here