London — Artificial intelligence robots are turbo-charging the race to find new drugs for the crippling nerve disorder ALS, or motor neurone disease, the illness that felled Springbok rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen. The condition, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks and kills nerve cells controlling muscles, leading to weakness, paralysis and, ultimately, respiratory failure. There are only two drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to slow the progression of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) — one that has been available since 1995 and another approved just this year. About 140,000 new cases are diagnosed a year globally and there is no cure for the disease, famously suffered by cosmologist Stephen Hawking. "Many doctors call it the worst disease in medicine and the unmet need is huge," says Richard Mead of the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience, who has found artificial intelligence (AI) is already speeding up his work. Such robots — ...

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