While it is not a common source of fear in Western countries, malaria is a disease highly endemic to tropical countries, Asia and many parts of Africa. A recent WHO report informed that there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013. The disease resulted in death of approximately 584,000 people, many of whom were children in Africa. Although there seems to be no effective drug in use for malaria, a scientist robot named Eve may have found a cure.
The robot is equipped with an artificial intelligence on top of the technology currently used by drug companies for drug research. Computer scientist Ross King and his team from the University of Manchester in England reported that Eve found a chemical named TNP-470. The substance apparently attacks an enzyme called Plasmodium vivax, which is one of the parasites that causes malaria.
Instead of testing every molecule that could be a potential drug, Eve uses its artificial intelligence to screen a set of around 5,000 molecules. Eve then determines probable hits among these sets, and tests only those. After finding the most likely hit, the robot quits the testing process because testing the rest of the set would not add valuable information. This method makes Eve highly efficient compared to traditional and slow methods used by pharmaceutical companies. Eve’s method of work might also help reduce costs related to drug research.
Although there are some concerns that Eve does not look between the lines of drug research, King says that systems like Eve will play a big role in the future of drug research.