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Research: Grid Boosts Efforts To Fight Malaria

Global computing muscle helps search for drugs

A DCSC case story, provided by Professor John Renner Hansen, University of Copenhagen

Scientists working to find effective drugs to combat malaria have enlisted the computing muscle of a high performance computing grid spanning 28 countries. The international Wisdom project - which ran from 1 October 2006 to 31 January 2007, and stands for "Worldwide in silico docking on malaria.

The Wisdom grid, which utilised up to 5,000 computers simultaneously, helped to analyse potentiall drug compounds against proteins of the malaria parasite in an attempt to discover viable treatments for the disease - which kills more than one million people each year. Using the grid, scientists were able to process an average of 80,000 possible drug compounds against malaria every hour. In the four months the Wisdom grid was up and running, more than 140 million compounds were processed and a total of 2,000GB of "useful data" was generated.

The main bulk of the UK's contribution came from GridPP - a particle physics grid, built as part of another international computing project called the Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid - which is being used to process data from the world's biggest particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva. Professor Tony Doyle, GridPP project leader, said in a statement: "Although our grid was built to analyse particle physics data, when we have spare capacity we're able to share it with other scientists worldwide. In this case, we're happy to have contributed more than two million hours of computer time to help find drugs against malaria."

This is not the first time a grid has been used in the fight against a deadly disease. Back in May last year, scientists in Asia and the UK deployed a grid aimed at finding a cure for bird flu. That project also utilised a grid originally designed for processing particle physics data.

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