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Tag: Tommi Jaakkola

A new computational technique could make it easier to engineer useful proteins

To engineer proteins with useful functions, researchers usually begin with a natural protein that has a desirable function, such as emitting fluorescent light, and put it through many rounds of random mutation that eventually generate an optimized version of the protein.

This process has yielded optimized versions of many important proteins, including green fluorescent protein (GFP). However, for other proteins, it has proven difficult to generate an optimized version. MIT researchers have now developed a computational approach that makes it easier to predict mutations that will lead to better proteins, based on a relatively small amount of data.

Using this model, the researchers generated proteins with mutations that were predicted to lead to improved versions of GFP and a protein from adeno-associated virus (AAV), which is used to deliver DNA for gene therapy. They hope it could also be used to develop additional tools for neuroscience research and medical applications.

“Protein design is a hard problem because the mapping from DNA sequence to protein structure and function is really complex. There might be a great protein 10 changes away in the sequence, but each intermediate change might correspond to a totally nonfunctional protein. It’s like trying to find your way to the river basin in a mountain range, when there are craggy peaks along the way that block your view. The current work tries to make the riverbed easier to find,” says Ila Fiete, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, director of the K. Lisa Yang Integrative Computational Neuroscience Center, and one of the senior authors of the study.

Regina Barzilay, the School of Engineering Distinguished Professor for AI and Health at MIT, and Tommi Jaakkola, the Thomas Siebel Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, are also senior authors of an open-access paper on the work, which will be presented at the International Conference on Learning Representations in May. MIT graduate students Andrew Kirjner and Jason Yim are the lead authors of the study. Other authors include Shahar Bracha, an MIT postdoc, and Raman Samusevich, a graduate student at Czech Technical University. Learn more
Antibodies (pink) bind to influenza virus proteins (yellow) (artist’s conception)

‘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. Learn more

Generative AI Imagines New Protein Structures

“FrameDiff” is a computational tool that uses generative AI to craft new protein structures, with the aim of accelerating drug development and improving gene therapy. Learn more

Artificial intelligence model finds potential drug molecules a thousand times faster

The entirety of the known universe is teeming with an infinite number of molecules. But what fraction of these molecules have potential drug-like traits that can be used to develop life-saving drug treatments? Millions? Billions? Trillions? The answer: novemdecillion, or 10^60. This gargantuan number prolongs the drug development process for fast-spreading diseases like Covid-19 because it is far beyond what existing drug design models can compute. To put it into perspective, the Milky Way has about 100 billion, or 10^11, stars. Learn more
Portrait of Octavian-Eugen Ganea

Remembering Octavian-Eugen Ganea, a gifted MIT postdoc AI researcher and beloved colleague

Octavian-Eugen Ganea, a gifted postdoctoral artificial intelligence researcher at the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (Jameel Clinic) and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) passed away during a hike in French Polynesia on May 26. He was 34. Learn more
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