New award program gives university researchers access to AI technology

Researchers at UConn will be able to take advantage of the new artificial intelligence program at Atomwise that seeks to help biological researchers transition from basic research to developing therapies for various illnesses. (Screenshot from www.atomwise.com)

Researchers at UConn will be able to take advantage of the new artificial intelligence program at Atomwise that seeks to help biological researchers transition from basic research to developing therapies for various illnesses. (Screenshot from www.atomwise.com)

Scientists at research institutions throughout the United States and Canada now have the opportunity to apply for Atomwise’s Academic Award program.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut will be able to take advantage of the new artificial intelligence program that seeks to help biological researchers transition from basic research to developing therapies for various illnesses.

“Global health crises are mounting and universities are facing cutbacks in research funding,” Alexander Levy, the chief operating officer and co-founder, said in a press release. “Initiatives like AIMS are stepping in to help ensure we don’t lose the next generation of medical breakthroughs.”

Atomwise is a San Francisco-based company that uses artificial intelligence technologies to screen various compounds to use them for biological and medical research.

“We work with universities big and small to discover new compounds that could have medicinal value,” Levy said.

Atomwise helps researchers move on from conducting basic research to identifying a protein that is involved in a disease and finding compounds that can bind to that protein and thus help with therapeutic research. The artificial intelligence technology screens compounds and selects 72 of the most viable ones, which are then mailed to researchers.

“The important thing is to emphasize is that this is not a cash award; it’s a donation of advanced AI technology and deliverable compounds,” Levy said.

Dr. Han Lim, the academic partnership executive, and former UC Berkeley faculty member, said he understands the monetary constraints researchers must often work within.

“This program was designed with those issues in mind, we understand how important funding is to academic research,” Lim said.

Atomwise has worked with over two dozen universities, including Harvard and Stanford, on projects that researched diseases such as Ebola, multiple-sclerosis and cancer.   

While Atomwise has never partnered with UConn, Lim said they would love to work with the university in the future.

“We have never been fortunate enough to have a UConn partnership,” Levy said. “Hopefully, this will lead to some people (at UConn) applying to the program.”

Many researchers across the country have voiced their concerns regarding President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to cut funds to the National Institute of Health, which funds a great deal of research annually.

Despite the increased press coverage of this issue as of late, Lim said funding has long been an issue for university researchers.

“Even not considering this year, money had been tight for research for quite some time,” Lim said. “It’s been harder and harder for researchers to get funding.”  

Lim said he hopes researchers take advantage of this opportunity.

“This is a unique opportunity to conduct transformative research with an industrial partner at no cost,” Lim said in the press release. “I encourage every academic scientist in search of new chemical and biological discoveries to apply.”

Researchers may apply to the program now through June 12, and recipients will be informed of their award in September.


Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anna.aldrich@uconn.edu. She tweets @ZarraAnna.