|World Community Grid launched Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together|
In an effort to halt the spread of deadly infectious diseases now threatening to reach epidemic proportions around the globe, World Community Grid has launched an unprecedented research effort with The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and the University of Chicago to discover drugs to treat and cure dengue fever, West Nile encephalitis, hepatitis C, and a host of related diseases including yellow fever.
Dengue fever, found throughout the world's tropical and subtropical regions, and West Nile virus, which affects Africa, Asia, Europe, and most recently, the United States, have no known drug treatments. These diseases are primarily passed to adults and children by infected mosquitoes, and are responsible for millions of illnesses, as well as thousands of deaths each year. With no available cures, these infections severely burden strained medical resources in developed and developing countries.
The project, "Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together," will use the vast computational power of World Community Grid to find drugs that will stop the replication of the viruses that cause these diseases. Once the compounds are identified through exhaustive computational analysis, researchers can begin testing these drugs in laboratories and clinics to determine their effectiveness.
"West Nile and other diseases in this family, including hepatitis and encephalitis, continue to be a serious public health concerns in the U.S., because there are no known drugs to effectively treat them," said Dr. Ayo Oduola, of the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization and a member of World Community Grid's Advisory Board. "Continued research is needed so that scientists can better understand these viruses and then develop treatments that could save many lives."
Researchers estimate that about 50,000 years of computational time is needed to complete the calculations necessary to discover effective antiviral drugs. Running on World Community Grid, this project may be completed in less than one year. The more computer power volunteered, the faster the research will be conducted.
Dr. Stan Watowich, lead researcher and Associate Professor of Biochemistry at UTMB, said, "Without World Community Grid, we would have to make inexact, simplifying assumptions that have proven to be obstacles to previous drug development efforts. World Community Grid enables us to perform comprehensive calculations that yield accurate biochemical results, and therefore give us the best chance to discover cures for these serious worldwide diseases."
The first phase of the project will target one of the primary proteins that enables viruses to replicate, and will match this protein against a database of more than six million drug molecules that might inhibit virus replication. The second phase, which is more difficult, will predict which drug molecules bind tightest to the viral proteins, and thus have the best chance of inhibiting virus replication. From these calculations, researchers will walk away with several dozen molecules that they can begin testing in the laboratory and clinic, which is the next phase in developing drugs for the marketplace.
"Anyone with a computer and Internet access can be a part of the solution to address this very critical health concern," said Stanley Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation. "Simply by donating our unused computer cycle time, we can all have a profound effect on how quickly this team can move to the next phase of drug discovery. For example, if 100,000 volunteers sign up within the first week for this project, it could reduce the time required to complete calculations by 50 percent."
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