ageist editors | march 22, 2018
AI hunts for cures
There are 8,000 diseases out there that need curing. Thus far, the only way to tackle them has been through painstaking, lengthy research, the publishing of papers, peer review, and costly analysis and testing by big pharmaceutical companies. Enter: artificial intelligence. Turns out that among the most immediate applications of AI is one that could benefit humankind’s understanding of the enormous amount of existing research data. Leading the way — and coming to us via the Financial Times — is London-based BenevolentBio. And leading BenevolentBio. 61-year-old CEO Jackie Hunter. The veteran scientist and previous head of the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council made the jump to a startup because of the desire to fix the low success rate and slow pace of Big Pharma.
The company’s computers suck in relevant studies, articles and papers, and scientists do the final bit of work: identifying promising cures and partnering with drug companies to develop solutions. Her office is filled with younger, mostly male colleagues — a point that energizes her. “What can I contribute?” she tells the FT. “An ability to ask the right questions, have a different point of view, and challenge the way of doing things.” We love to see this kind of cross-generational work atmosphere, especially one led by a woman. And one of our favorite takeaways from the piece was Hunter’s take on the fast-paced environment, which took some getting used to. Being uncomfortable is good, she says, “because it means you are doing things differently.”