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Noubar Afeyan: We are at a seismic moment for life sciences and biotech technologies
Nov 10, 2023, 17:29

Noubar Afeyan: We are at a seismic moment for life sciences and biotech technologies

Noubar Afeyan, Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, shared on LinkedIn:

“We are at a seismic moment for life sciences and biotech technologies, a reality that’s spurred us to create a new Flagship Pioneering Initiative: Pioneering Intelligence (PI).

Last Wednesday, we marked its official launch with Flagship Pioneering’s inaugural AI Summit, which drew an overflow crowd of global leaders from pharma, biotech, finance, academia, and technology. All these sectors will be essential to leveraging AI, as we seek to develop life-saving drugs faster and more efficiently and to combat climate change through AI-enabled new technology.

Like all Flagship ventures, Pioneering Intelligence started with a What if? question: What if . . . we could harness the latest advances in artificial intelligence to create breakthroughs and accelerate innovation across the Flagship ecosystem?

We are now starting to find out.

Thanks to advances in machine learning, we are unravelling the complexity of biology – mysteries that until now have eluded human understanding. At Flagship, AI is both augmenting the capabilities of our existing 40+ companies and driving the creation of new ones. At the Summit, it was great to hear from a number of these Flagship-founded companies, including Generate:Biomedicines, Montai Health, Cellarity, Inari, and Apriori Bio.

Through new technologies, we are replacing traditional drug research – a trial-and-error process with an estimated 3%-10% chance of success – with a digital data-driven AI approach that dramatically improves the odds. Simply put, we are moving from artisanal to engineerable drug discovery. This is revolutionary.

One of the most tantalizing capabilities of AI is its potential to expand scientific imagination. For example, what if . . . AI hallucinations can operate as a feature, not simply a bug? What’s a bug in guessing right can prove to be a feature in creating novelty – and it is novelty leads to breakthroughs. This idea sparked robust debate among Summit attendees.

Looking ahead, we will need to partner with federal and state regulators to ensure that safety and security efforts do not throw up obstacles for the innovative people and companies with potential to solve the world’s most urgent problems. President Biden’s October 30, 2023, Executive Order on AI provides an opportunity for conversation – and education – as we work towards our shared goal of creating a better world.

I have always been a great fan of science fiction. But today we are more than readers; we are living – and writing – new chapters. There’s a slogan of sorts at Flagship Pioneering that reads “Science Fiction” – but the word fiction is crossed out. It’s on company T-shirts and on an elevator door just outside our office. This is what we do. We take our boldest, wildest imaginings and strive to make them real. And faster than ever before, science fiction is becoming science.”

Source: /LinkedIn