GSK will use supercomputers to develop new drugs

It has signed a $43 million deal with a deep learning company called Exscientia.

Developing a new drug is a long, complicated and expensive process that takes years before you get to the human trial. There's a hope that computers will be able to simulate the majority of the process, greatly reducing the cost and time involved. That's why GlaxoSmithKline is throwing $43 million in the direction of Scottish AI company Exscientia, which promises to use deep learning to find new drugs.

Essentially, Glaxo will hand over some data and a series of objectives, and Exscientia will use its systems to simulate way to a conclusion. If successful, the process may be able to spit out potential pills that are close to being ready for tests on humans. Exscientia's Andrew Hopkins claims that his system can find potential treatments in a quarter of the time, at a quarter of the cost.

Of course, there's still plenty of skepticism that digital drug creation can really supplant old-fashioned methods of research. Being able to simulate chemicals and test their efficacy has not -- yet -- been proven to be as successful as the traditional method. But if it does work, then expect to hear much more about how big supercomputers are doing away with hundreds of clinical researchers.