You can help: Just download an app to allow the IBM-sponsored “world community grid” to use your computer when it’s idle.
The massive supercomputer, created by donations of such excess capacity by hundreds of thousands of computer users, will enable speedy screening of millions of potential compounds to identify promising drug candidates for testing in the laboratory.
It’s already been harnessed to winnow potential new treatments for malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola.
“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 treat Zika, we will perform these initial tests in a matter of months,” said Alex Perryman, a member of Freundlich’s lab group and a co-leader of the research.
Perryman pioneered the use of supercomputers in the quest for drugs against AIDS and malaria.
Perryman’s method uses a computer model of the virus, detailed to the level of individual atoms, to test how various compounds fit in or interact with it. In contrast, a pharmaceutical lab typically tests thousands of compounds against a pathogen by actually applying the test material to a tiny amount of the virus or bacteria in a culture.
Picture the Zika virus as covered by a number of different locks. The compounds to be tested are like keys.
A key that fits in a lock can jam the virus’ ability to reproduce or to sicken its host, and thus be a potential candidate for further study.
The project also will use atomic models of related viruses, such as dengue fever and West Nile, in addition to Zika, to test for possible broad-spectrum treatments for the family of related diseases.
To read Washburn’s full story, click here.