In September 2021, scientists Sean Ekins and Fabio Urbina were working on an experiment they had named the "Dr. Evil project." The Swiss government's Spiez laboratory had asked them to find out what would happen if their AI drug discovery platform, MegaSyn, fell into the wrong hands.
In much the way undergraduate chemistry students play with ball-and-stick model sets to learn how different chemical elements interact to form molecular compounds, Ekins and his team at Collaborations Pharmaceuticals used publicly available databases containing the molecular structures and bioactivity data of millions of molecules to teach MegaSyn how to generate new compounds with pharmaceutical potential. The plan was to use it to accelerate the drug discovery process for rare and neglected diseases. The best drugs are ones with high specificity—acting only on desired or targeted cells or neuroreceptors, for instance—and low toxicity to reduce ill effects.
Normally, MegaSyn would be programmed to generate the most specific and least toxic molecules. Instead, Ekins and Urbina programmed it to generate VX, an odorless and tasteless nerve agent and one of the most toxic and fast-acting human-made chemical warfare agents known today.
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