Grid Computing Efforts Fight Avian Flu

Over the last few months, a number of major international grid computing collaborations have been working to uncover more effective treatments for avian flu. Scientists are focusing on a particular research target in the strain of avian flu known as H5N1.

In April in the United States, The Rothberg Institute for Childhood diseases released the avian influenza target for H5N1 to the distributed computing project Drug Design and Optimization Lab, or D2OL. This information allows the D2OL software to model target proteins identified from the avian flu and then to simulate the binding of drug molecules with these targets to identify promising combinations that can potentially inhibit important disease pathways. The process is like searching through a collection of keys (drug candidates) to find the one that will fit a specific lock (target protein).

D2OL was already working to discover potential drug candidates against Anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, SARS and other infectious diseases. The grid computing effort has examined over 1 million potential treatment candidates and continues to proceed at the rate of more than 30,000 candidates a day.

Can IT handle an avian flu pandemic? Click here to read more.

The project claims to be the first to use computational methods to deploy targets against these major infectious diseases. The research community is growing rapidly and currently comprises nearly 80,000 volunteers and their computers in 93 countries. As with some other grids, it works through the download of a free software application that contributes idle computer time to research.

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