IBM tackles disease with World Community Grid

24 Aug 2007

In an effort to find cures and treatments for potentially deadly diseases like the West Nile virus, Hepatitis C and dengue fever, IBM yesterday joined up with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and the University of Chicago, bringing its considerable computing power to this research.

The project entitled “Discovering dengue drugs – together”, will draw on the resources of the World Community Grid (WCG), a humanitarian effort to join together individual computers to form computational power that could outperform supercomputers.

Researchers estimate that in order to find an effective antiviral drug, over 500,000 years of computational time would be needed, however if the WCG was used it could potentially be done in under a year, especially if more people around the world volunteer the processing power of their computers.

“Without World Community Grid, we would have to make inexact, simplifying assumptions that have proven to be obstacles to previous drug development efforts,” said Dr. Stan Watowich, lead researcher and associate professor of Biochemistry at UTMB.

“World Community Grid enables us to perform comprehensive calculations that yield accurate biochemical results, and therefore give us the best chance to discover cures for these serious worldwide diseases.”

WCG has over 315,000 members with more than 700,000 computers linked together by it is estimated that by 2008 there will be over 1 million connected. Other projects running on the WCG include FightAIDS@Home, which has managed to complete over six years of computational research in half a year.

“Anyone with a computer and internet access can be a part of the solution to address this very critical health concern,” said Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation.

“Simply by donating our unused computer cycle time, we can all have a profound effect on how quickly this team can move to the next phase of drug discovery. For example, if 100,000 volunteers sign up within the first week for this project, it could reduce the time required to complete calculations by 50pc,” he said.

By Marie Boran