According to the latest news, IBM has built a new chemical laboratory, RoboRXN, that is fully operational in the cloud. The lab combines artificial intelligence models, cloud computing platforms and robots to help scientists design and synthesize new molecules at home.
This online lab platform allows scientists to log in via a web browser. They can plot the molecular compound frame structure they want to make on a blank canvas, and the platform uses machine learning techniques to predict the desired composition and mixing order. The platform then sends instructions to the robot in the remote lab to execute. Once the experiment is complete, the platform sends the results to the scientists.
Traditionally, new drugs and materials have taken an average of 10 years and $10 million to be found and brought to market. Most of this time is spent repeating experiments to synthesize new compounds, constantly trialing and erroring. IBM hopes that platforms like RoboRXN can accelerate such processes by predicting compound composition and automating experiments. In theory, this would reduce the cost of drug development and support scientists’ faster response to public health crises such as the new corona virus outbreak. In recent outbreaks, quarantine measures have led to a slowdown in laboratory work.
In addition to IBM, other companies want to use artificial intelligence and robots to speed up chemical synthesis. Some academic laboratories and start-ups are working towards the same goal. Jill Becker, CEO of startup Kebotix, says it’s worth the IBM platform to support users to remotely submit molecular structures and get analytics. “With RoboRNX, IBM has taken an important step toward accelerating the discovery of new drugs.”