Wednesday AM June 3rd, 2009

The world community grid links more than a million individual computers to help scientists to solve daunting calculations. The University of Texas Medical Branch is using the grid to expedite research on new drug candidates. Ed Mayberry reports.


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IBM’s World Community Grid utilizes personal computers around the world, compressing thousands of years of computer time.  UTMB researchers are using the grid to identify chemical compounds–a process that can speed drug development.  Dr. Stan Watowich is lead researcher at UTMB.

“You could be working at your desk right now, writing up this article, doing your bills, checking your e-mails, surfing the net, and in the background, you know, it could be busy performing all this work for our group or other groups around the world.  The way IBM does it, is it puts up a screen saver, if you will, that says your computer now is working on his project in the background.  One project, we’re trying to find candidate drugs that target the influenza virus, and the second project is Dengue Fever and West Nile Encephalitis.”

World Community Grid runs virtual chemistry experiments, and these computer predictions can then be tested in the lab and clinic.

“We write the programs that are applicable for these calculations.  We then give the programs to IBM.  IBM figures how to send the work out around the world in discrete little pieces so that every computer might get a few hours work at a time.  They ship out the work around the world.  Results come back to IBM.  IBM packages it, checks all the work, validates it, makes sure there’s no security problems, and then ships it down to us.  And we’ll then start processing them and try to figure out ‘are there any of these results that are pointing to potential drug targets?”

As many as ten per cent of the drug candidates identified by calculations on the grid are likely to show antiviral activity in the lab and move to further testing. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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