Scientists are finally learning how to design proteins from scratch. Drug development may never be the same

SEATTLE — It’s a cloudy Thursday afternoon in mid-July and David Baker is reclining into the futon in his corner office at the University of Washington, arms splayed out like a daytime talk show host as he coaches another one of his postdocs through the slings and arrows of scientific celebrity.

“Be jealous of your time,” he says, before plotting ways of sneaking her out of Zooms. “It’s this horrible cost to science that you’re tied up in some stupid meeting.”

Minkyung Baek, a soft-spoken chemist from Korea, appears to be adjusting well. She is calm and poised in her chair, chuckling at Baker’s jokes and at her own plan to mute a scientific meeting after her presentation so she can do actual work.

You wouldn’t blame her for being more celebratory. Minutes before, Science published a paper showing machine learning software she designed in a few months could reproduce one…
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