It’s an honor to welcome AI expert Noor Shaker as the newest member of Enko’s Board of Directors. In a career spanning academia and industry, Noor has applied AI across disciplines ranging from games to drug discovery. She is Senior Vice President & General Manager at X-Chem, which acquired her startup Glamorous AI last year.
While new to the agricultural space, Noor has spent years working with artificial intelligence for drug discovery. We recently sat down to talk about the promise of AI across industries and what intrigues her about its potential in ag. Below is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.
I made the switch for two reasons. First, the pace of progress is much faster in industry. Second is the multidisciplinary nature of industry. As researchers, we tend to focus on one area and dive deep. To build something truly innovative in industry, you have to work across different disciplines and apply research in several domains.
This is what intrigues me about Enko – the opportunity to apply something that I’ve spent a long time learning about to a totally new area. I’d been familiar with agricultural applications of AI in genomics, but less so with chemicals. It’s exciting to contribute to a new paradigm in how we apply.
“The 1060 drug-like chemicals are the ones humans could take without negative side effects.”
It’s likely even larger in ag. The 1060 drug-like chemicals are the ones humans could take without negative side effects. In ag, we can use other chemicals that humans don’t directly consume (ones that we spray but later wash away).
This larger chemical space is exciting, and it sheds light on the importance of AI. In drug discovery, we use AI because we can’t enumerate the applicable chemicals. The chemical space is hard—maybe impossible—to search and navigate without it. You need to bias it toward those that will work for specific applications. That’s even more true in ag.
I see the next few years as transformative. In five to ten years, we’ll see what we’re working on now as ancient history. I’m most excited about AI’s potential to augment human abilities. We know that our approaches to problem solving are limited. AI can help us think differently, and more broadly. Beyond just optimizing how quickly or efficiently we work, this creative aspect of AI fascinates me.
That applies to ag: DEL provides a larger, more diverse chemical space to explore and helps us broaden our approach. Can we increase this chemical space even more? Bring a chemistry to market that no one thought to test before? AI can help us do that.
By Jacqueline Heard, CEO and founder