Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

How will AlphaFold 3 change life sciences research?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AlphaFold 3 System

Why in the News?

AlphaFold 3, and AI System introduced in a May 2024 Nature paper, extends capabilities to predict protein-protein interactions, DNA, RNA structures, and their interactions.

Importance of Proteins

  • Proteins are crucial molecules regulating nearly every biological function.
  • They are composed of amino acids, which determine their structure and function.
  • Understanding protein folding is essential for comprehending cellular and organismal functions.

The Protein-Folding Problem

  • The process of protein folding is complex and not fully understood, known as the protein-folding problem.
  • It is vital for deciphering how cells, organisms, and life itself operate.
  • Frank Uhlmann emphasizes the significance of understanding protein structure for molecular biology.

What is AlphaFold?

  • Google DeepMind’s AlphaFold debuted in 2020, employs AI and machine learning to predict protein structures.
  • AlphaFold 2, released in 2021, significantly improved accuracy in protein structure prediction.
  • Derek Lowe acknowledges AlphaFold’s achievement in predicting structures effectively, although the deeper biological principles remain less explored.
  • AlphaFold 3’s Advancements:
    • It democratizes research by offering accessible structure prediction tools, even for non-experts.

Technology behind AlphaFold 3

  • Unlike its predecessors, AlphaFold 3 utilizes a diffusion model akin to image-generating software.
  • This approach involves training on noisy data and de-noising to predict accurate protein structures.
  • Working:
    • Given an input list of molecules, AlphaFold 3 generates their joint 3D structure, revealing how they all fit together.
    • It models large biomolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA, as well as small molecules, also known as ligands — a category encompassing many drugs.

Applications of AlphaFold 3

  • AlphaFold 3 excels in predicting protein structures and interactions, aiding drug discovery efforts.
  • DeepMind’s spin-off, Isomorphic Labs, utilizes AlphaFold 3 for drug candidate identification.


  • The model’s code restriction has sparked criticism among researchers for hindering scientific collaboration and transparency.
  • DeepMind initially withheld AlphaFold 3’s full code, prompting calls for open access from the scientific community.
  • Responding to backlash, DeepMind plans to release the complete code within six months.


[2020] With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following?

  1. Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units
  2. Create meaningful short stories and songs
  3. Disease diagnosis
  4. Text-to-Speech Conversion
  5. Wireless transmission of electrical energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

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