Jim Collins receives funding to harness AI for drug discovery

Housed at TED and supported by leading social impact advisor The Bridgespan Group, The Audacious Project is a collaborative funding initiative that’s catalyzing social impact on a grand scale by convening funders and social entrepreneurs, with the goal of supporting bold solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges.

Among this year’s carefully selected change-makers is Jim Collins and a team at MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (Jameel Clinic), including co-principal investigator Regina Barzilay. The funding provided through The Audacious Project will support the response to the antibiotic resistance crisis through the development of new classes of antibiotics to protect patients against some of the world’s deadliest bacterial pathogens.

“The work of Jim Collins and his colleagues is more relevant now than ever before,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We are grateful for the commitment from The Audacious Project and its contributors, to both support and foster the research around AI and drug discovery, and to join our efforts in the School of Engineering to realize the potential global impact of this incredible work.” 

Collins’ and Barzilay’s Antibiotics-AI Project seeks to produce the first new classes of antibiotics society has seen in three decades, by calling in an interdisciplinary team of world-class bioengineers, microbiologists, computer scientists, and chemists.

Collins is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and the Department of Biological Engineering, faculty co-lead of Jameel Clinic, faculty lead of the MIT-Takeda Program, and a member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology faculty. He is also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and an Institute member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Barzilay is the Delta Electronics Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, faculty co-lead of Jameel Clinic, and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.

Earlier this year, Collins and Barzilay along with Tommi Jaakkola, Thomas Siebel Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, and postdoc Jonathan Stokes were part of a research team that successfully used a deep-learning model to identify a new antibiotic. Over the next seven years, The Audacious Project’s commitment will support Collins and Barzilay as they continue to use the same process to rapidly explore over a billion molecules to identify and design novel antibiotics.

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