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A Somerville startup and an academic lab in Seattle say they have developed a way to use artificial intelligence to design proteins that don’t exist in nature.

Proteins help people move, digest food, and fight infections — to name a few of their numerous functions. They’re also the basis of a nearly $300 billion drug industry for treating cancer, immune diseases, and other conditions. Most of these therapies are only slightly altered versions of natural proteins. And for some scientists, nature is too limiting.

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