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#EmTechMonthly: AI for drug discovery, retro milk and inventing email

  • Posted on November 14, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
AI for drug discovery

Welcome to our monthly curation of emerging technology news tidbits and trends that help inform the research we do for our Avanade Trendlines program. Let’s discuss any thoughts you have in the comments.

Technology: AI for drug discovery
Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong biotech startup, has been working with the University of Toronto to leverage machine learning to create a new drug to prevent tissue scarring. Bringing a new drug to market usually costs billions of dollars and takes years. Insilico Medicine created its new drug in just 46 days.

Why should you care? Insilico Medicine reached this milestone using reinforcement learning, an AI technique that hasn’t yet fully impacted the enterprise. What’s important about reinforcement learning is that it doesn’t require huge amounts of structured or historical data to learn. The University of Toronto helped Insilico design 30,000 new molecules and then narrow those down to a handful that were then further tested in the lab. Expect to see this form of generative design impacting product design considerably over the next 12 months.

The future of consumption
Everything old is new again? Loop is a startup company that’s going back to the milkman model of the 1950s in the U.S. You buy the milk, but the milk company owns the bottle, which the company picks up when you’re done with it. Loop founder and CEO Tom Szaky says “Removing plastics from the ocean is not enough. We need to get at the whole idea of disposability and single-use items.”

Why should you care? It feels like we may be at the peak of unbundling (consumer services that were broken up into key services are being repackaged with better/cheaper products). Disruptors have been going after certain product segments of large companies with more refined product and service levels (think razors with Dollar Shave Club, food with Blue Apron and milk with Loop). We’re seeing it now with media streaming companies (Apple TV+, Disney+, etc.). These unbundling products are now being packaged back together (rebundling) with more holistic types of services. The direct-to-consumer evolution will be big to watch in 2020.

Profile: The space race
Gwynne Shotwell is an engineer who has worked with Elon Musk since SpaceX’s founding in 2002, longer than almost any executive at any Musk company. She manages about 6,000 SpaceX employees and translates her boss’s far-out ideas into sustainable businesses.

Why should you care? Well it’s space and it’s just cool. But seriously, the technology being invented and developed by the new space race will eventually find its way into the enterprise (and we don’t mean the starship). Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is selling its rockets to Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and in October NASA allocated $43.2 million to 14 companies to accelerate projects to the moon and Mars.

Was e-mail a mistake?
“In the nineteen-eighties … e-mail emerged as the killer app for bringing asynchronous communication to the office. … There’s nothing intrinsically bad about e-mail. … The difficulties start when we try to undertake collaborative projects—planning events, developing strategies—asynchronously. In those cases, communication becomes drawn out, even interminable.” No one has truly solved enterprise collaboration.

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