At a presentation today at the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Washington, D.C.,
United Devices, IBM and Accelrys, along with several technology and research partners, delivered the results of the Smallpox Research Grid project to representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense. The event marked the completion of an important first-stage in finding a treatment for smallpox. The use of smallpox as a weapon of bioterrorism remains a frightening possibility. Vaccination ended in 1972 and today the only groups vaccinated are military personnel, some DoD civilians and a small number of civilian healthcare workers. Some experts believe that the general population could be susceptible. Availability of new anti-viral drugs to counter the virus would be a major advance in our defense.
Oxford Chemistry Department Head Graham Richards presented the results of the collaborative effort to First Secretary, Science & Technology, U.K. Embassy, Chris Pook, and Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Counterproliferation and Chemical and Biological Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, Brig. Gen. Pat Nilo.
In February 2003, the groups donating the research asked computer users around the world to join with them in the Smallpox Research Project, an international effort designed to help scientists develop new anti-viral drugs to counter the smallpox virus. The project screened thirty-five million potential drug molecules against eight models of the smallpox protein to determine if any of the drug-like molecules would bind to the smallpox protein, rendering it inactivated. Volunteers from more than 190 countries donated their spare CPU power at http://www.grid.org , the world’s largest public computing resource, and contributed more than 39,000 years of computing time in less than six months. Preliminary results have dramatically narrowed the field of molecules that can be considered lead candidates for the next phase of research.
The Smallpox Research Project is based on the Intel-United Devices Cancer Research Project and the Anthrax Research Project that harnessed the computing power of 1.3 million PCs around the world to provide scientists access to a virtual supercomputer more powerful than the world's ten largest supercomputers combined.
The ultimate goal of the project is to use commercially available technologies employed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to screen millions of potential anti-smallpox drugs against the identified protein targets. Had this project been undertaken using traditional methods, it would have taken years instead of less than four weeks.
The results of this research, which consist of a ranked list of drug candidates, will be turned over to the U.S. Government (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) and other friendly governments for further research and drug development.