Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine

Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine

Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine – The speed with which vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, were developed was a modern marvel. You might have gotten yours already, a little more than a year after the virus took over the world. But what if vaccines and treatments could be developed even more quickly in response to the next pandemic?


One of the goals of Microsoft’s $5 million gift to the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington School of Medicine is to achieve this. The funds will be used to investigate novel applications of artificial intelligence to protein design. They hope that one outcome will be faster development of therapeutics and vaccines in the event of the next pandemic. [Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine]


In this episode of the TechNews Health Tech Podcast, we speak with Microsoft’s chief scientific officer, Eric Horvitz, and the director of the UW institute, David Baker, about their collaboration and their hopes for the future of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.


“In general, I’ve had the impression for three decades that AI, including machine learning, is a sleeping giant in healthcare, both in the biosciences and in clinical medicine,” Horvitz said. “And I believe we’re witnessing the awakening of that sleeping giant right now.”


It’s the latest step in the evolution of UW Medicine’s Institute for Protein Design, which focuses on the development of de novo proteins, meaning proteins created from scratch rather than derived from nature. Proteins are molecules that play critical roles in our bodies and all living things. [Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine]


“When you take a protein from nature and adapt it as a therapeutic, it’s never really perfect,” Baker said. “It didn’t evolve with that goal in mind.”


“If you can make things from scratch, then you really can put in all the properties you want, and leave out all the properties you don’t want,” he explained. And then, as machine learning gains traction in this area and capabilities expand, I believe it will be a game changer.” [Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine]


One of Baker’s colleagues at the Institute for Protein Design, Neil King, has designed COVID-19 vaccine candidates that appear to be more potent than those currently in use as an example of the potential. Clinical trials for these vaccine candidates are currently underway.


Microsoft and UW Medicine announced the gift by saying they will begin by identifying areas where neural networks and large-scale computing can be applied to protein design, and then collaborate on the development and manufacturing of new proteins for testing in the UW Medicine lab.


Baker believes that the implications of this new era of AI and protein design extend beyond vaccines and pandemics. “What I’d encourage everyone to consider is what is possible now that we can design proteins with intent,” he said. “I believe we are only limited by our imaginations.” [Microsoft gives USD 5M to UW Medicine]

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