DeepMind CEO Targets $100 Billion-Plus AI Drug Discovery Business With AlphaFold

Google DeepMind has released a new version of AlphaFold, a landmark tool for predicting protein structures, that puts the artificial intelligence software on a path to make breakthroughs in biology research and bolster a business that Google’s AI chief says could be worth north of $100 billion.

The AI system has the potential to revolutionize medicine and create “enormous commercial value,” for DeepMind spinout Isomorphic Labs, Demis Hassabis, the chief executive officer of both subsidiaries, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “I hope to do both with Isomorphic: build a multi-hundred billion dollar business — I think it has that potential — as well as be incredibly beneficial for society and humanity.’’

Isomorphic Labs, a unit of Alphabet Inc. created three years ago, was built to commercialize DeepMind’s AI for drug discovery. DeepMind first released AlphaFold in 2018, with advances in decoding the shape of proteins, a scientific problem often compared to mapping the human genome. Now in its third iteration, AlphaFold can model a range of molecular structures, including DNA and RNA, and predict how they interact with one another.

“To really understand biology, you need to think about the interactions between different biological molecules,” Hassabis said. “And that's what AlphaFold 3 is a big step towards.”

Hassabis described the update, which was also published in the scientific journal Nature, as “essential for drug discovery” because of its critical insight into the kinds of chemical compounds used in designing and testing new medicine, including vaccines. “I would be expecting, maybe in the next couple of years, the first AI-designed drugs in the clinic,” Hassabis added.