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Machine Vision Helps Spot New Drug Treatments A startup uses algorithms that understand the anatomy of cells to discover new uses for existing drugs.

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Web users searching for photos and cops looking for suspects in video already benefit from software that understands the content of images. Chris Gibson says it can also make it easier to find treatments for diseases not targeted by existing drugs.

“By combining robotics and machine vision, we can work at large scale on hundreds of diseases simultaneously, using a small number of people,” says Gibson, who is CEO and cofounder of the 40-person startup Recursion Pharmaceuticals.

Recursion uses software to read out the results of high-throughput screening, which automates drug testing in cells. That isn’t a new idea, but Recursion uses algorithms that inspect cells at an unusual level of detail. The software measures a thousand features of a cell, such as the size and shape of its nucleus or the distance between different internal compartments.

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