Computing project targets avian flu

A research institute is harnessing the power of thousands of computers over the Internet to investigate potential drug treatments for deadly avian influenza.

The Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases, based on Guilford, Connecticut, said Thursday it had detailed the first mission for volunteers participating in the distributed computing project.

Volunteers download a screen saver program that simulates the binding of drug molecules with proteins — referred to as “targets” — in avian flu, the institute said.

The screen saver, which is visible in a computer’s program tray, kicks in when the computer is idle, the institute said. The institute likens the process to hunting through a batch of keys — meaning the drugs — to find the right one that fits a protein in the virus.

The results are sent back to the Rothberg Institute when the computer is connected to the Internet.

The institute said distributed computing allows for the deployment of new targets to tens of thousands of computers running the program, collectively called the Drug Design and Optimization Lab (D2OL), within minutes.

The institute said 80,000 volunteers in 93 countries are participating in the project so far.

The institute said the first avian flu target is the H5N1 neuraminidase, which aids in the spread of the disease. Avian Influenza A, also known as H5N1, is the most dangerous one that humans have contracted so far, the institute said.

Officials fear H5N1 is the most likely one to mutate into a form that humans could contract more easily. So far, human-to-human infections have been rare, the institute said.

Governments have ordered widespread culls of chickens in Europe and Asia to halt the spread, but it’s believed migrating birds have brought the disease to new areas.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Featured Article

ADaPT connects employers with highly skilled young workers

Help wanted. That’s what many tech companies across Canada are saying, and research shows that as the demand for skilled workers...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now