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News > News from the Worthian Network > Helping to cure cancer with AI

Helping to cure cancer with AI

Rory Ryan C'09 is designing new cancer medication using AI

Rory Ryan C’09 has been striving to make positive impacts on society with technology since leaving Worth. Whilst studying for his Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Leeds University, he took on the role of President of the Engineering Society and thoroughly enjoyed growing a decrepit society to a vibrant one. It was fuel on his ‘entrepreneurial fire’ as he says, “I realised my passion for bringing people together around a good cause and pushing people towards a vision for something innovative and exciting”.

Returning to London after 3 years based in China’s Silicon Valley and exiting his first start-up that made portable blood-tests, Rory has now built a new company using artificial intelligence to design new medication for cancer. As he explains, "For over 20 years, scientists have attempted to block cancer-enabling proteins that are dysregulated in more than 70% of tumours. Unfortunately, only 1% of these proteins have been blocked with medication and there remain many cancers we have no cure for". Rory is CEO and co-founder of a company called PentaBind, using AI to design new cancer medication to finally block these proteins and stop tumour growth. Rory's passion for the project is evident, “We’re living in an exciting era where artificial intelligence can be applied to finally solve complex problems in biology".

PentaBind’s team includes world-class scientists, clinicians and AI experts from Imperial College London, Francis Crick Institute, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and other world-renowned organisations. PentaBind’s AI can design new drug candidates in 20-fold reduced cost and time, replacing months of manual laboratory experiments with AI models running for only 48 hours and at the cost of electricity. PentaBind’s new cancer medication is made of fragments of AI-designed DNA sequences. These can be constructed like Lego pieces to form unique 3-dimensional shapes which can plug into the surface pocket of a cancer-enabling protein to block its activity in cells.

Despite AI’s incredible benefit to mankind, Rory adds a word of warning, “AI has the potential to transform society in profound ways, from improving healthcare and education to optimising transportation and energy systems. However, as we continue to integrate AI into our daily lives, it's crucial that we remain mindful of its limitations and ensure that it is used ethically and responsibly for the betterment of all”

Rory will be discussing the impacts of AI in our society and entrepreneurship at the School next week as part of the Spencer Lecture Series.


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