Here’s some crazy news out of UBC! Yesterday, the Canadian university put out a press release detailing the use of AI to discover yet to be created designer drugs. The research is meant to help law enforcement agencies around the world identify and regulate potential drugs, before they’ve even been created. Here’s the scoop.

Led by MD/PhD student Dr. Michael Skinnider, a team of researchers used a massive database of these ‘designer drugs’, ranging from bath salts to synthetic opioids. Then, using that data, they trained an artificial intelligence algorithm to predict similar drugs that have yet to be created.

Frankly, the results were astounding. The AI model was able to predict some 8.9 million new designer drugs, which have similar properties as those currently circulating. What’s more, when compared to the 196 new drugs that entered the market during their research, they found 90% of them were present in the AI’s generated set.

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What’s more, Dr. Leonard Foster, a professor at UBC, was able to combine the use of mass spectrometry (basically, measuring the weight of the molecule in gas form) and the AI to help identify unknown drugs that spring up around the world.

It’s not just synthetic opioids or cousins of bath salts that can be looked at, either. According to the release, the AI can be trained to help discover everything from new performance-enhancing drugs to unknown molecules in human blood or urine.

The research is being compared to a ‘Minority Report’ scenario for the designer drug market, as it’s able to predict new drugs before they’ve even been created. The hope is that with the help of AI, law enforcement agencies will be able to identify these drugs in a matter of days instead of months.

So yeah, using AI to predict and identify new designer drugs could become a regular thing in the coming years. Once again, technology is flexing on us, and we don’t know how to handle it!