Project Status and Findings: The FightAIDS@Home project is the first World Community Grid project to run on Android smartphones and tablets. With the launch of the BOINC for Android app in July 2013, volunteer computing took a leap forward, starting with this project. Volunteers can now accelerate this critical research with their mobile devices. Learn more or start contributing now.
Also, the fight against AIDS recently got another boost when the World Community Grid team made a new modelling tool, developed by the Scripps researchers, available for the FightAIDS@Home project. This new tool, called Vina, is more accurate and significantly faster than the original tool, called AutoDock, when screening highly flexible compounds. However, AutoDock is more accurate in other experiments. The researchers can therefore pick the tool more appropriate for the task at hand.
Additional information about this project can be found on these pages, including the project's News & Updates page. You may also visit the researchers' FightAIDS@Home website, where you can find the latest status report. To discuss or ask questions about this project, please visit the FightAIDS@Home Forum.
What is AIDS?
UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, estimated that in 2004 there were more than 40 million people around the world living with HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The virus has affected the lives of men, women and children all over the world. Currently, there is no cure in sight, only treatment with a variety of drugs.
Prof. Arthur J. Olson's laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is studying computational ways to design new anti-HIV drugs based on molecular structure. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that the function of a molecule — a substance made up of many atoms — is related to its three-dimensional shape. Olson's target is HIV protease ("pro-tee-ace"), a key molecular machine of the virus that when blocked stops the virus from maturing. These blockers, known as "protease inhibitors", are thus a way of avoiding the onset of AIDS and prolonging life. The Olson Laboratory is using computational methods to identify new candidate drugs that have the right shape and chemical characteristics to block HIV protease. This general approach is called "Structure-Based Drug Design", and according to the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, it has already had a dramatic effect on the lives of people living with AIDS.
Even more challenging, HIV is a "sloppy copier," so it is constantly evolving new variants, some of which are resistant to current drugs. It is therefore vital that scientists continue their search for new and better drugs to combat this moving target.
Scientists are able to determine by experiment the shapes of a protein and of a drug separately, but not always for the two together. If scientists knew how a drug molecule fit inside the active site of its target protein, chemists could see how they could design even better drugs that would be more potent than existing drugs.
To address these challenges, the World Community Grid FightAIDS@Home project runs one of two software programs: one is called AutoDock, the other called AutoDock Vina (AD Vina), both developed in Prof. Olson's laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute. AutoDock is a suite of tools that predicts how small molecules, such as drug candidates, might bind or "dock" to a receptor of known 3D structure. The very first version of AutoDock was written in the Olson Laboratory in 1990 by Dr. David S. Goodsell, since then, newer versions, implemented by Dr. Garrett M. Morris, have been released which add new scientific understanding and strategies to AutoDock, making it computationally more robust, faster, and easier for other scientists to use. Until now, the FightAIDS@Home project ran its computations on the AutoDock software, but the researchers find that the newer docking program, AD Vina, is more accurate in "positive control" experiments. In addition, AD Vina typically runs 10 to 100 times faster than AutoDock. In some cases however, AutoDock can be more accurate than AD Vina - each provides complementary types of data that researchers may want to compare to each other. Therefore, as of July 2013, either one or both of these software programs are used on this project depending on the types of molecules being docked and the particular target against which they are docked. Both AutoDock and AD Vina are used in the FightAIDS@Home project on World Community Grid to dock millions of different small molecules to HIV protease, HIV integrase, and HIV reverse transcriptase, so the most promising molecules can be computationally identified, and then procured and tested in the laboratories of collaborating experimentalists to determine how potent they are at shutting down the activity of the enzymes that the HIV virus uses to replicate and spread. By joining together, The Scripps Research Institute, World Community Grid and its growing volunteer force can find better HIV treatments much faster than ever before.