In July of this year, DeepMind announced that their AlphaFold 2 Artificial Intelligence programme had solved one of biology's most vexing challenges: how to determine the three-dimensional shape of a protein.
This achievement has been hailed as the most significant contribution AI has made to advancing the state of scientific knowledge to date and answers a computational problem that thousands of researchers around the world have been trying to solve for decades. Scientists are optimistic that solving the problem will herald a new era in medicine, agriculture and even sustainable recycling and believe it to be a great illustration and example of the kind of benefits AI can bring to society. In collaboration with EMBL-EBI, DeepMind has made the AlphaFold protein predictions, source code and methodology freely and openly available to the global scientific community, so how does the scientific community plan to use the most complete and accurate picture of the human proteome to date?
We are delighted to welcome Dame Janet Thornton, Director Emeritus of EMBL-EBI as our special guest presenter of the OBN Christmas Lecture for 2021, who will share her insight into the ground-breaking impact of the database and the importance of open science, as well as:
- Why has the protein folding problem been such a difficult challenge to solve?
- How transformative will the database be for understanding how life works?
- Are there any limitations to the applications of the results in the database?
- How has AlphaFold 2 been used in the fight against COVID-19
- What are the limitations of the database?
About the Presenter, Professor Dame Janet Thornton
Professor Dame Janet Thornton is a senior scientist and director emeritus at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). She is one of the world's leading researchers in structural bioinformatics, using computational methods to understand protein structure and function.
Her research group focuses on understanding protein structure (function and evolution) and ageing using computational approaches. After a physics degree, she completed her PhD at the UK NIMR before post-doctoral studies at Oxford. She then held a joint appointment at University College London and the Bernal Chair in the Crystallography Department at Birkbeck College.
Professor Thornton is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a member of EMBO and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.