Opioid addiction and opioid-involved deaths have been on the rise in America over the past few decades, so much so that the Centers for Disease Control have rightly labeled it an “epidemic.” One researcher has thought of a novel approach to solve the opioid crisis, and it involves leveraging the power of AI to find alternative painkillers that can be just as effective but non-addictive.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded $1.5 million over five years to researcher Benjamin Brown of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research and the Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence in Protein Dynamics. Brown developing an AI solution to analyze billions of potential opioid drugs to reveal detailed insights into how they interact with key proteins. Brown says that he views the opioid problem on a molecular level. Painkillers used legitimately in medicine, such as oxycodone, are highly addictive, but a better understanding of how their molecules interact with proteins in the body could lead to the formulation of nonaddictive alternatives.

Brown says he is focusing his research on “Mu-opioid receptors,” which are signaling proteins in the central nervous system that bind with opioids. These receptors modulate pain, stress, mood, and other functions. Drugs that target these receptors are among the most powerful analgesics, but they also are the most addictive.

Brown’s AI platform models drug-protein interactions in a way that accounts for their dynamic physical movements. These movements called “conformational changes,” can occur in milliseconds and make a big difference in how a protein behaves and binds or interacts with a small molecule drug.

By using AI to model this motion, the algorithms can more effectively predict how tightly proteins and drugs will interact and the effects of this interplay. This information is used to screen billions of potential drugs-an unprecedented scale for highly dynamic proteins-or design new ones with properties that lead to fewer addictive side effects.

How Damo Helps Bring Advanced AI Solutions to Healthcare

We share Ben Brown’s belief in the transformative power of AI, particularly in the areas of medical research and drug development.

However, Damo Consulting recognizes that digital maturity varies widely across enterprises and technology solution providers. We are proud to help clients develop digital transformation roadmaps that can be implemented with informed technology choices to meet organizational objectives.

We bring deep industry knowledge, market insights, and technology skills to help develop and implement enterprise digital roadmaps. The companies that we have recognized in the past with the DigiM Award and will do again with the 2023 nominees and recipients represent those that are leading the way with best-in-class programs for digital health, technology-led innovation, and organizational governance models to drive the healthcare industry’s transformation to a digital future.

Damo Consulting focuses exclusively on the healthcare market with a strong understanding of the provider and payer space. We make it our mission to explore, understand, and evaluate the most pressing issues at the intersection of healthcare and technology, specifically in the context of digital transformation in healthcare.

Rohit Mahajan is a Managing Partner with Damo Consulting. He has particular expertise in the development and design of innovative solutions for clients in Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Automotive, Manufacturing, and other industry segments.

Since 2012, Damo Consulting has been working with leading healthcare enterprises on technology strategy and digital transformation. The firm has worked with some of the leading technology firms and emerging health IT companies to transform their brands and accelerate growth. For more information, visit Damo Consulting.