Lex Fridman Dmitry Korkin

Dmitry Korkin

Dmitry Korkin is a professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at WPI. His research is interdisciplinary and spans the fields of bioinformatics of complex disease, computational genomics, systems biology, and biomedical data analytics. We bring expertise in machine learning, data mining and massive data analytics to study molecular mechanisms underlying genetic disorders, such as cancer, diabetes, and autism, and deadly infections, such as pandemic flu. His approaches benefit from integrating multi-omic, systems, and structural biology data. We also develop hardware-optimized algorithms to understand the evolution of animal and plant genomes on the large scale. Finally, we collaborate with experimental scientists to test biological hypotheses generated by computational predictions. Members of our lab have enjoyed working together on cutting-edge cross-disciplinary projects and participating in collaborations nationally and internationally. Find the books mentioned in his conversation with Lex Fridman below.

Books Mentioned on Lex Fridman Podcast #153 - Dmitry Korkin:

Book Title: The Master and Margarita

Author: Mikhail Bulgakov

Book Title: Cancer Ward

Author: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Book Title: The Computer & The Brain

Author: John von Neumann

Book Title: Lab Girl

Author: Hope Jahren

Dmitry Korkin’s Evolution of Proteins Discussion with Lex Fridman

In a captivating episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, #153, Dmitry Korkin, a professor of bioinformatics and computational biology, delved into the intricate world of proteins, viruses, and their evolution. The conversation offered profound insights into the building blocks of life and the role of proteins in various biological processes. This article presents the first third of their discussion, exploring the fundamental aspects of proteins and their evolutionary significance.

The Building Blocks of Life

Korkin began by addressing a common assertion: proteins and amino acids are the basic building blocks of life. He agreed but also emphasized the complexity of proteins. Each protein consists of several structural units, known as protein domains, comparable to beads on a string. These domains play pivotal roles in the protein’s functions and are crucial in the evolutionary process.

Protein Domains and Evolution

The discussion highlighted the modular complexity of proteins, with Korkin explaining that proteins often consist of multiple domains. These domains, made up of amino acid residues, contribute significantly to a protein’s functionality. Korkin elaborated on the evolutionary aspect, noting that protein domains tend to get shuffled across species, indicating their vital role in the evolutionary framework.

Advanced Techniques in Protein Study

Korkin discussed advanced techniques such as X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, and cryo-electron microscopy. These techniques have revolutionized our understanding of proteins, enabling scientists to determine the 3D structures of larger molecular complexes.

The Spike Protein of SARS-CoV-2

A substantial part of the conversation was dedicated to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Korkin described its complex structure, which forms a trimer to function correctly. He also discussed recent mutations in the spike protein, highlighting the dynamic nature of viral evolution and its implications for human health.

The Role of Proteins in Viruses and Vaccines

The dialogue ventured into the potential treatments targeting viral proteins. Korkin mentioned the idea of designing nanoparticles to mimic the virus’s shape, potentially blocking viral entry into cells. He also touched upon the evolutionary stability of certain viral proteins, which could be strategic targets for future treatments.

Advancing Our Understanding of Proteins and Viruses

In the second third of the Lex Fridman Podcast #153, Dmitry Korkin, a renowned expert in bioinformatics, continued his fascinating conversation with Lex Fridman, delving deeper into the complex world of proteins and viruses. This article captures the essence of their dialogue, focusing on advanced techniques in protein study, the structural complexity of viruses like SARS-CoV-2, and the implications for human health and treatment strategies.

The Structural Complexity of Viruses

Korkin shared intriguing insights about the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, explaining its complex trimer structure necessary for its proper functioning. He discussed recent mutations in the spike protein, shedding light on the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of viruses. This conversation underscored the importance of understanding viral structures for developing effective treatments and vaccines.

Nanoparticles and Treatment Strategies

The discussion touched upon potential treatments targeting viral proteins, including the design of nanoparticles that mimic the virus’s shape. These could serve as a strategy for blocking the virus from entering human cells. Korkin also mentioned the evolutionary stability of certain viral proteins, which could be strategic targets in developing future treatments.

The Evolutionary Perspective

Korkin and Fridman explored the evolution of proteins and viruses, emphasizing the importance of understanding these processes for developing effective treatments. They discussed how mutations enable viruses to evolve and adapt to different environments, which is crucial for their survival and proliferation.

Exploring Protein Structure and Function

The conversation also highlighted the role of proteins in various biological functions, including their involvement in the immune response and cellular mechanisms. The complexity of protein structures, their interactions with other molecules, and their role in cellular processes were key topics of discussion.

Exploring the Future of Computational Biology and AI

In the final third of Lex Fridman’s Podcast #153, Dmitry Korkin, a distinguished figure in bioinformatics, continues his enlightening conversation with Lex, diving into the future of computational biology, AI’s role in scientific discovery, and the ethical considerations of such technologies. This article encapsulates their insightful discussion, providing a glimpse into the potential future of computational biology and artificial intelligence.

Computational Biology and AI: A Symbiotic Relationship

Korkin discussed the symbiotic relationship between computational biology and AI, highlighting how advancements in one field catalyze progress in the other. He emphasized the potential of AI in unraveling complex biological systems, predicting protein structures, and understanding the intricacies of viral evolution. The conversation underscored the transformative impact AI has had and continues to have in the field of computational biology.

Ethical Considerations and Future Challenges

The discussion took a turn towards the ethical considerations and future challenges of using AI in biology. Korkin stressed the importance of responsible use of AI, especially in sensitive areas like virus engineering and genetic modifications. He also reflected on the need for transparency and ethical guidelines in scientific research to prevent the misuse of these powerful technologies.

The Role of AI in Scientific Discoveries

Korkin expressed optimism about AI’s role in future scientific discoveries. He envisioned AI not only as a tool for data analysis but also as a collaborator in hypothesis generation and experimental design. The conversation touched upon the potential of AI-driven systems to revolutionize our approach to scientific research, making it more efficient and effective.

Anticipating the Future

As the podcast drew to a close, Korkin shared his thoughts on the future of computational biology and AI. He anticipated significant advancements in understanding complex biological systems, with AI playing a crucial role in deciphering the mysteries of life at a molecular level. He also expressed hope for AI’s contribution to medical science, especially in areas like drug discovery and personalized medicine.


The final segment of the podcast with Dmitry Korkin and Lex Fridman provided an in-depth look into the future of computational biology and the role of AI in this rapidly evolving field. The discussion highlighted the potential of AI in transforming our understanding of biology and the need for ethical considerations in its application.