AI Robots Look For New Drugs For ALS

Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Friday, August 11, 2017 - 5:05am

Artificial-intelligence robots are getting involved to find solutions for the crippling, fatal nerve disorder ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In December, Barrow Neurological Institute found five new genes linked to ALS by using IBM's Watson supercomputer. Now, a team in England is advancing the science.

If the research succeeds in delivering new medicines, it would mark a notable victory for AI in drug discovery. BenevolentAI, a private British company, is funding the quest.

Richard Mead of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience is working with BenevolentAI to develop machine learning and ultimately expand genetic information about the condition.  

Mead says AI is already speeding up his work, and his team is planning for clinical trials next year.

There are two drugs approved now by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to slow the progression of ALS, one of which has been available since 1995 and the other approved this year. Lou Gehrig's disease attacks and kills nerve cells controlling muscles, leading to weakness, paralysis and, ultimately, respiratory failure.

About 140,000 new cases are diagnosed each year globally, and there is no cure for the disease.

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