Vol 5. Issue 37 / December 5, 2005

Donated Computer Time Supports AIDS Research Effort

At a November 21 press conference on The Scripps Research Institute's La Jolla, California campus, IBM and Scripps Research launched a new effort to help battle AIDS using the massive computational power of the World Community Grid, a global community of Internet users who donate unused time on their personal computers. With computational power already placing it among the top 10 supercomputers in the world, the World Community Grid is the first "virtual supercomputer" devoted specifically to AIDS research.

Professor Arthur J. Olson, Scripps Research's Anderson Research Chair, is now able to deploy this computer power for FightAIDS@Home, a project dedicated to finding new AIDS therapies in the face of evolving drug resistance in the virus. Massive computational power is essential for the success of the project because the pool of potential drug molecules, as well as that of possible mutant HIV proteins that may evolve, is enormous. 

"The computational challenges in approaching this problem are the vast number of possible mutations that may occur, and the huge number of possible chemical compounds that might be tested against them," Olson said. "The new World Community Grid project will run millions upon millions of docking computations to evaluate potential interactions between compounds and mutant viral proteins."

World Community Grid offers individuals and businesses, foundations, associations, universities, and not-for-profit organizations the opportunity to help in the fight against AIDS by donating the idle and unused time on a computer. Fast, easy, safe, and secure, more than 100,000 individuals are currently volunteering power from 170,000 computers. All that is needed to become a participant is to download World Community Grid's free software and register at www.worldcommunitygrid.org.

Launched in November 2004, World Community Grid is a global humanitarian effort that applies the unused computing power of individual and business computers to help the world's most difficult and societal problems. Grid computing is a rapidly emerging technology than can bring together the collective power of thousands or millions of individual computers to create a giant "virtual" system with massive computational strength far in excess of the world's largest supercomputers.

"We are excited to bring the power of World Community Grid to this important research initiative," said Linda Sanford, chairman of World Community Grid's Advisory Board and IBM senior vice president of Enterprise On Demand Transformation & Information Technology. "World Community Grid is an extremely valuable resource for organizations focusing on some of society's most difficult challenges, and we will continue to actively engage with other institutions that are looking to use this asset for innovative research."

FightAIDS@Home is now the second project to take advantage of the computational power offered by World Community Grid. In the past year, the Human Proteome Folding Project on World Community Grid has produced a database that describes the structure of approximately 120,000 protein domains that could not be described using traditional approaches. Using only the supercomputers at the Institute for Systems Biology, it would have taken about 100 years to compute the protein structures rather than one year on World Community Grid. This database of protein structures will help scientists take the next steps to understanding how diseases that involve these proteins work and, ultimately, how to develop new therapies. The results of the Human Proteome Folding project will be entered into the public domain so that scientists and researchers around the world can use the information in their studies.

At the November 21 news conference for the new collaboration to fight AIDS, California State Senator Christine Kehoe noted, "My involvement with AIDS goes back to the mid-1980s, so I've seen first-hand how this disease effects individuals and communities. It's an honor to be here today with IBM and The Scripps Research Institute for the launch of FightAIDS@Home on World Community Grid. This innovative initiative allows thousands of individuals to get involved in the battle against AIDS.  I hope that concerned citizens in San Diego and throughout the great state of California join in this effort to eradicate this disease from the planet."

Nobel laureate David Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology and World Community Grid Advisory Board member, emphasized the importance of the project. "AIDS is perhaps the most devastating epidemic of our time," he said. "Its growing impact on the developing nations of the world is both tragic and destabilizing. Through World Community Grid, individuals in all parts of the globe can participate in helping develop effective, inexpensive and robust therapies against HIV and potentially reverse the downward health and economic impacts of this epidemic."

Candy Ferret, president & CEO of the National AIDS Fund, added her voice to those urging individuals to get involved. "World Community Grid is helping to reduce the impact of AIDS around the world in a way we can all be a part of.  We encourage all computer owners to take five minutes to join in this effort."

For more information on the project and how to participate, visit FightAIDS@Home, at http://fightaidsathome.scripps.edu/ or the World Community Grid at http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu




"The new World Community Grid project will run millions upon millions of docking computations to evaluate potential interactions between compounds and mutant viral proteins," says Scripps Research Professor Arthur Olson. Photo by Kevin Fung.