OSB archive
OSB archive

Wisdom of swarms

Pete Wilton

Ant colonies, schools of fish and flocks of birds all have a different kind of intelligence from individuals: Oxford scientists are amongst those finding ways of creating artificial 'swarm intelligence' to help perform all kinds of tasks - including designing new drugs.

Currently drug designers use NMR spectroscopy to model the structure of proteins and work out what shape drug molecules need to be to bind to specific protein receptors - but this is very time-consuming and can only be done efficiently by an expert. Andrew Pickford of Oxford's Department of Biochemistry and colleagues aim to cut the time it takes to calculate protein structure from months to hours, and make it much easier to use, by applying swarm intelligence techniques.

The approach has been tested successfully using proteins where the 3D structure is already well known and the NMR spectroscopy invention is being commercialised by Oxford University Innovation, the University of Oxford's technology transfer company. More details from Adam Stoten at Isis.