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‘A landmark moment’: scientists use AI to design antibodies from scratch

Researchers have used generative artificial intelligence (AI) to help them make completely new antibodies for the first time.

The proof-of-principle work, reported this week in a preprint on bioRxiv, raises the possibility of bringing AI-guided protein design to the therapeutic antibody market, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Antibodies — immune molecules that strongly attach to proteins implicated in disease — have conventionally been made using brute-force approaches that involve immunizing animals or screening vast numbers of molecules.

AI tools that can shortcut those costly efforts have the potential to “democratize the ability to design antibodies”, says study co-author Nathaniel Bennett, a computational biochemist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Ten years from now, this is how we’re going to be designing antibodies.”

“It’s a really promising piece of research” that represents an important step in applying AI protein-design tools to making new antibodies, says Charlotte Deane, an immuno-informatician at the University of Oxford, UK.
Antibodies (pink) bind to influenza virus proteins (yellow) (artist’s conception)
Antibodies (pink) bind to influenza virus proteins (yellow) (artist’s conception). Credit: Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library
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