Using AI, MIT researchers identify a new class of antibiotic candidates

Jim Collins, faculty lead of life sciences, MIT Jameel Clinic, speaks about his AI-assisted research that has led to the discovery of a powerful class of antibiotic compounds capable of killing a common drug-resistant bacteria. Jim says, “The insight here was that we could see what was being learned by the models to make their predictions that certain molecules would make for good antibiotics. Our work provides a framework that is time-efficient, resource-efficient, and mechanistically insightful, from a chemical-structure standpoint, in ways that we haven’t had to date."


Using a type of artificial intelligence known as deep learning, MIT researchers have discovered a class of compounds that can kill a drug-resistant bacterium that causes more than 10,000 deaths in the United States every year.

In a study appearing today in Nature, the researchers showed that these compounds could kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) grown in a lab dish and in two mouse models of MRSA infection. The compounds also show very low toxicity against human cells, making them particularly good drug candidates.

A key innovation of the new study is that the researchers were also able to figure out what kinds of information the deep-learning model was using to make its antibiotic potency predictions. This knowledge could help researchers to design additional drugs that might work even better than the ones identified by the model.

MIT News