New proteins, better batteries: Scientists are using AI to speed up discoveries

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being utilized by scientists in areas such as drug discovery and material development to speed up their research processes.

The application: AI has significantly reduced the time taken to develop potential drugs for diseases, demonstrated by Susana Vazquez-Torres, a graduate student at the University of Washington.
* Torres has used AI to identify candidate drugs for snakebite within a few months, a process which would traditionally take years.
* For protein design, specific AI technology, known as diffusion modeling, is being employed to construct proteins with desired shapes from scratch, increasing research speed and efficiency.

Technical challenges: While AI has revolutionised scientific discovery in some areas, not all fields have equally benefited due to certain limitations.
* Maria Chan from Argonne National Laboratory highlighted a lack of sufficient research to base AI calculations on in her work with materials for the renewable economy.
* The complexity of interactions within materials, at large and molecular scales, also makes them hard to study using AI.

Future of AI in sciences: Some experts believe AI will take on a more central role in scientific discoveries, with the potential to develop new hypotheses by analyzing scientific literature spanning decades.
* However, AI models will need to improve their reasoning abilities to avoid known issues of data fabrication and errors.
* It’s envisaged that AI could automate data reanalysis, providing updated results on ongoing issues like diseases or environmental change.

The human role: Despite increased automation, humans still play a vital role in determining the validity of AI-suggested lines of research, and in exploring the wide array of problems that AI can potentially help to solve.

View original article on NPR

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