As the Zika outbreak spreads, and World Community Grid volunteers ask if their donated computing power can be used to help find new vaccines or treatments, we are actively searching for Zika researchers who need to conduct computational research.
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Last week, the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency due to the spread of the Zika virus, which may be linked to birth defects in newborn infants whose mothers are infected as well as to neurological disorders. Thanks to the contributions of over 700,000 individuals and 470 organizations, World Community Grid has already enabled important scientific advances in childhood cancer, solar energy and clean water. We are now actively seeking new opportunities to apply this free and powerful resource to addressing the Zika crisis, and have begun conversations with several researchers and organizations to find out how World Community Grid can help. Specifically, we are looking to provide computing power to Zika researchers who wish to conduct computational research, such as virtual drug docking experiments, to discover a treatment for the disease.
We understand the urgency of this work and have a track record of responding rapidly to address critical public health needs, such as the launch of Outsmart Ebola Together, which began the search for antiviral drugs for Ebola at the height of the 2014 outbreak. Within 6 months, 30,000 our volunteers had screened over 5 million candidates, which could potentially also be used to treat related diseases in the filovirus family, including the Marburg, Sudan and Reston viruses.
Additionally, through the Discovering Dengue Drugs - Together project, World Community Grid supported the search for drugs to help combat dengue, a devastating mosquito-borne disease which is thought to have similarities to Zika. During this project, World Community Grid volunteers screened 3 million chemical compounds, leading the researchers to identify a promising molecules which might have the potential to disable the dengue virus. Chemists are working on modifying the molecules in various ways, hopefully to improve their effectiveness, before proceeding with further testing.
We welcome research proposals of any size, and have the capacity to provide massive computational power, completely free of charge. For example, two of our projects are respectively considered to be the largest drug docking experiment and largest quantum chemistry experiment ever conducted to date.
Existing Software Tools
While we welcome proposals which use any computational tools, the following software tools have already been enabled to run on World Community Grid, and a project using one of these tools could therefore be set up very quickly.
- AutoDock and AutoDock VINA (the world's most widely used and cited docking programs, both developed by The Scripps Research Institute). These tools have been used by a number of World Community Grid medical research projects and could prove to be helpful for Zika research.
- BEDAM - Academic Impact (molecular simulations). This tool is currently being used on our FightAIDS@Home project to screen top candidates from VINA screenings.
- Rosetta (protein folding)
- Lammps (molecular dynamics)
- Charmm (molecular dynamics)
- Gromacs (molecular dynamics)
- Q-Chem (quantum chemistry)
- SSearch (genome comparison)
Any scientists with expertise in Zika research, who are involved with or planning projects requiring large computational power, can contact World Community Grid. We thank the many dedicated World Community Grid volunteers who have already expressed an interest in contributing to the fight against the Zika virus.