A robot scientist is ready for drug discovery

The robot scientist Eve has been assembled and is now operating at Chalmers University of Technology. Eve’s f​irst mission is to identify and test drugs against Covid-19.​

Photo
Eve and researcher Ievgeniia Tiukova.
Source: Martina Butorac

A robot scientist is a laboratory system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate scientific research. It autonomously forms hypothesis, plans experiments, executes the experiments using laboratory automation equipment, analyses the results, and repeats the cycle.

AI systems now have superhuman scientific skills that are complementary to human scientists. “My vision when developing robot scientists is not to replace human scientists, but rather to make them orders of magnitude more productive through collaborating with AI systems,” says Ross King, Professor of Machine Intelligence at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering. “This will free human scientist to make the high-level creative leaps at which they excel, and thus contribute to solving societal challenges.”

His first robot scientist, Adam, was the first machine to autonomously discover scientific knowledge. Eve was developed for automatic early-stage drug development and has previously discovered novel drugs against several tropical diseases including malaria.

Moving Eve from the University of Manchester to the Division of Systems and Synthetic Biology at Chalmers has enabled Ross King to collaborate with Per Sunnerhagen, Professor at Gothenburg University, to search for drugs against Covid-19. “It is deeply shocking how little effort large pharmaceutical companies have put into finding drugs against Covid-19. If such drugs were available now, they would save many lives in places such as India,” says Ross King.

The new robot scientist Genesis, which is under development, is funded by the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program. It is designed to better understand how human cells work.

About Eve

  • Eve is a laboratory automation work cell with equipment for liquid handling, drug maintenance, yeast growth profiling brough together by robotic arms.
  • Eve has vacuum sealed mechanics of robotic arms which can operate in six axis orientation and were designed for continuous use under heavy loads for months at a time.
  • Eve has an intelligent drug discovery mode using algorithms of active machine learning to untangle quantitative structure/activity relationship.
  • Eve enables ultra-precise, reproducible, and high-throughput experimentation to facilitate early drug discovery and assists researchers with repetitive tasks.


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