How AI is Changing the Way Scientists Make Drugs, Biosensors, Enzymes and More


RF Diffusion is part of fast-growing set of AI tools transforming how scientists forge proteins into drugs, industrial enzymes, biosensors, food products, and more. Seattle companies, many of them spinouts of the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, are at the forefront.

“Ten to 15 years ago we were kind of out in the lunatic fringe,” said IPD head David Baker. “It’s interesting to be at center stage now. There’s so much that can be done,” added Baker, whose institute has fostered more than a dozen spinouts and affiliated companies pushing the technology forward.

The field of protein design is still young. Last year, a COVID-19 vaccine with origins at the IPD was the first vaccine or therapy based on computational design to gain regulatory approval, in South Korea. But the potential market is vast, Cyrus Biotechnology CEO Lucas Nivon told GeekWire. Proteins have the ability to fold into shapes that can precisely target biological molecules. Last year, biologics like protein-based therapeutics accounted for a third of drug approvals.