Robots do science

The use of artificial intelligence is growing in genetic research. This past week in Copenhagen, the creator of a robot that can create and test its own hypotheses visited Novozymes.

A computer in Wales with the nickname “Adam” is being used not only to speed up genetic research, but to actually test and refine hypotheses of its own making. Adam’s creator, professor Ross King, a recognized leader in the use of artificial intelligence in genetic research, visited Novozymes on March 18 as an example of how Novozymes works with innovation.

“It’s all about using computer power to transform research,” says Gernot J. Abel, Science Manager in Novozymes’ Research & Development. “We would not have the products we do today without computer automation.”

For Novozymes, the question is how far can the company go using robots to strengthen research efforts. That is why leaders like Ross King are invited to visit the company as part of a speaker series called “Science Infusion.” Such visits support Novozymes’ efforts to use robots in protein design and other applications. 

While robots are frequently used in scientific research, Adam became the first to set up computer-generated hypotheses, test those with experiments, and reformulate the hypotheses – all with virtually no human help.  For this, Adam became a celebrity – its accomplishments were included among the top 10 scientific achievements in 2009 by TIME Magazine, and covered by Science Magazine.

“Computers help us explain what we're looking at, just like a microscope,” explains Gernot J. Abel. “They let us look more closely at many more events, they increase the quality of our research, they protect people from repetition injuries, and in the case of Adam, they even make up the hypotheses.”