A Treatment for ALS Discovered With the Help of AI Starts Human Trials: Verge Genomics, a California-based biotech startup, announced it had begun human clinical trials of a therapeutic discovered with the help of an AI system. Verge isn’t the first AI-powered healthcare company to bring a therapeutic to the trial stage, but the milestone is notable for a number of reasons. The first is that it is targeting a disease, ALS, that has proved notoriously difficult to treat. The second is that Verge’s use of AI allows it to pursue an “all-in-human” approach, as opposed to traditional research that relies on animal testing. According to the company, its “ConVERGE” system used 11.4 million data points gathered from the tissue and genetic information of approximately 1000 ALS patients and healthy controls in order to identify 22 potential target mechanisms for treating the disease — a process that took only three months. AI has not yet proved to be a panaceafor healthcare, but if successful, Verge’s methods could help speed future discoveries. The four years it took the company to get to clinical trials is a significant improvement over traditional methods, both in terms of time and cost.
This will probably not be the last we hear of the issue — as AI systems like image generators and language models become increasingly popular, the problem of how training data is sourced is likely going to get even thornier.
The DOD’s National Defense Strategy — An AI Strategy Could Be Next: Last week, the Pentagon released a public version of its National Defense Strategy, its congressionally mandated quadrennial review. The NDS (which was transmitted to Congress earlier this year) hits many of the same notes as the National Security Strategy (released earlier last month), focusing heavily on strategic competition with China, which it identifies as “the pacing challenge” for the DOD. Like the NSS, the NDS emphasizes the need to “build enduring advantages” by marshaling the strengths of the U.S. defense industrial base. To that end, the strategy:
Criticizes the DOD’s current acquisition system and calls for one that rewards “rapid experimentation, acquisition, and fielding” so that the military can quickly adopt emerging technologies. As Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron noted, that plan will likely be “music to the defense industry’s ears,” but it’s also not the first time the Pentagon has called for an overhaul of its acquisition system.
Says the DOD will implement reforms to better integrate its data, software and AI efforts.
Lays out a plan to strengthen the defense industrial base by boosting the DOD’s support for research institutions, small businesses and other technology firms.
Calls for aggressive changes to build out the DOD’s workforce and fill expertise gaps, such as in cyber, data, and AI. In addition to changes meant to attract existing talent (such as streamlining hiring, improving incentives and offering flexible work environments), the NDS also says the DOD will work with colleges and universities to expand the talent pool.
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On October 19, Martijn Rasser, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS, joined CSET Research Fellows Tim Hwang and Emily Weinstein to discuss decoupling in strategic technologies.
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