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'It will change everything': DeepMind's AI makes gigantic leap in solving protein structures


A protein's function is determined by its 3D shape.Credit: DeepMind An artificial intelligence (AI) network developed by Google AI offshoot DeepMind has made a gargantuan leap in solving one of biology's grandest challenges -- determining a protein's 3D shape from its amino-acid sequence. DeepMind's program, called AlphaFold, outperformed around 100 other teams in a biennial protein-structure prediction challenge called CASP, short for Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction. The results were announced on 30 November, at the start of the conference -- held virtually this year -- that takes stock of the exercise. "This is a big deal," says John Moult, a computational biologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who co-founded CASP in 1994 to improve computational methods for accurately predicting protein structures. "In some sense the problem is solved."