Fighting the Zika virus with the power of supercomputing

Rutgers is taking a leading role in an IBM-sponsored World Community Grid project that will use supercomputing power to identify potential drug candidates to cure the Zika virus. The project, known as OpenZika, employs a global team of scientists who will perform "virtual" experiments in a search of treatments for the fast-spreading virus that the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency.

OpenZika will screen current drugs and millions of drug-like compounds from existing databases against models of Zika protein structures (and also against structures of proteins from related viruses, including West Nile Virus and Dengue). These computational results will be shared quickly with the research community and general public, with compounds showing the most promise then tested in laboratory settings.

"Instead of having to wait a number of years, even decades potentially, to test all these compounds in order to find a few that could form the basis of antiviral drugs to cure Zika, we will perform these initial tests in a matter of months, just by using idle computing power that would otherwise go to waste," says Alex Perryman, a research teaching specialist at Rutgers' New Jersey Medical School, in Professor Joel Freundlich's lab. Perryman was selected as co-principal investigator of the OpenZika project, while Freundlich serves as a key consultant.

IBM created World Community Grid in 2004 to address researchers' critical need for supercomputing power. Partially hosted on IBM's SoftLayer cloud technology, World Community Grid provides massive amounts of supercomputing power to scientists for free by harnessing the unused computing power of volunteers' computers and Android devices.

IBM and the scientific team are seeking volunteers with a computer or Android device to join the OpenZika project. The volunteers, who can sign up on the World Community Grid website, need not have a particular expertise. Nor are there financial obligations or time commitments. All participants need to do is run an app on their Windows, Mac, Linux or Android devices that automatically performs virtual experiments whenever their machines are idle.

More than three million computers and mobile devices used by nearly 750,000 people and 470 institutions across 80 countries have combined to create World Community Grid, which makes it one of the largest supercomputers on the planet. These volunteers have contributed supercomputing power for more than two dozen World Community Grid projects over the past 11 years, at an estimated value of more than $500 million.

Rutgers' Perryman has had deep experience working with IBM's World Community Grid. From 2007 to 2013, he managed and performed the day-to-day duties required for FightAIDS@Home, the first biomedical computing project on World Community Grid. In 2011, Perryman designed, developed and ran the grid's Global Online Fight Against Malaria (GO FAM) project, which has resulted in identifying promising tool compounds for treating malaria and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In less than two years, GO FAM volunteers on the grid performed more than a billion docking jobs, which, Perryman estimates, would have taken at least 100 years using the computer capacity found at most universities. The Freundlich lab has leveraged GO FAM data against tuberculosis drug targets, along with novel machine learning techniques they have developed, to seed novel therapeutic strategies.

In addition to Perryman's GO FAM project, World Community Grid has helped researchers identify new potential treatments for childhood cancer, test materials for more efficient solar cells, and study how nanotechnology can filter water more efficiently.

For the OpenZika project IBM is working with an international team of researchers, led by Federal University of Goias in Brazil; with scientists from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil; Rutgers University's New Jersey Medical School (NJMS); and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Carolina Horta Andrade, professor at Federal University of Goias, is the principal investigator. Joining Perryman as co-PI is Sean Ekins, CEO, Collaborations Pharmaceuticals.

Volunteers can support the OpenZika search for a cure by joining World Community Grid. IBM also invites researchers to submit research project proposals to receive this free resource. For more information about IBM's philanthropic efforts, visit http://www.citizenIBM.com.

Most Popular Now

Fasenra (benralizumab) receives US FDA approval fo…

AstraZeneca and its global biologics research and development arm, MedImmune, announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Fasenra (benralizumab)...

Pfizer receives FDA approval for SUTENT® (sunitini…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new indication expanding the use of SUTENT® (sunitinib malate) to include...

Alzheimer's disease might be a 'whole body' proble…

Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia, has long been assumed to originate in the brain. But research from the University of British Columbia and Chinese scie...

Cancer cells destroyed with dinosaur extinction me…

Cancer cells can be targeted and destroyed with the metal from the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, according to new research by an international col...

Novartis confirms leadership in multiple sclerosis…

Novartis today announced it will present 54 scientific abstracts from across its multiple sclerosis (MS) research portfolio at the 7th Joint European and Americas Committ...

Amgen and Novartis announce expanded collaboration…

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Novartis announced an expanded collaboration with the Banner Alzheimer's Institute (BAI) to initiate a new trial - the Alzheimer's Prevention Init...

Transplanted hematopoietic stem cells reverse dama…

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that a single infusion of wildtype hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) into a mous...

Novartis announces the planned acquisition of Adva…

Novartis announced today, that it has entered a memorandum of understanding with Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA) under which Novartis intends to commence a tender...

New tissue-engineered blood vessel replacements on…

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have created a new lab-grown blood vessel replacement that is composed completely of biological materials, but surprisingly doe...

'Precision Medicine' may not always be so precise

Precision Medicine in oncology, where genetic testing is used to determine the best drugs to treat cancer patients, is not always so precise when applied to some of the w...

New US study reveals key reasons why millions of p…

Few of the more than 90 million Americans(1) with obesity are seeking and receiving long-term obesity care, according to new data from the Awareness, Care and Treatment I...

Efficacy and safety maintained in patients who swi…

Boehringer Ingelheim today announced one-year data from VOLTAIRE®-RA, a pivotal Phase III clinical trial comparing Cyltezo® (adalimumab-adbm) and reference product Humira...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]