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Hardware News   Hardware News : Computers enlisted for bioterror fight
   posted by DaveyD on 5-Feb-2003 13:56:45 (1522 reads)
The spare capacity of millions of computers is to be used in the fight against smallpox.

The deadly disease was eradicated in 1980 but there are fears it could re-emerge through bioterrorism.

Scientists hope to develop the first treatment for smallpox by harnessing the "downtime" of two million PCs around the world.

It is the latest example of so-called "distributed computing", or the grid, in which each volunteer machine is given a chunk of data to compute.

The Smallpox Protection Project is the brainchild of scientists at Oxford University in the UK.

A number of companies are providing the software and infrastructure - including computer giant IBM and software company United Devices Inc in the US.

Number crunching

The aim is to use lots of computers to screen known chemical compounds for their ability to block the smallpox virus. The substance can then be tested as a potential drug.

Dr Karl Harrison of the department of computational chemistry at Oxford University said there was a tremendous need for an anti-smallpox drug.

He told BBC News Online: "We know the shape of the proteins that are present in the virus.

"We're testing 35 million small molecules to see if they can block or fit into the protein and therefore stop the protein from working."

The focus is a key enzyme used by the virus to replicate. By attacking this "Achilles heel", it might be possible to halt the spread of the virus through the body.

Extraterrestrial life

Problems suitable for "distributed computing" are those which would take years of processor time if carried out on just one, or a small group of computers.

The downloaded software swings into use when the computer has been idle for a set period.

The principle has been used for everything from the design of new drugs to the search for extraterrestrial life.

The smallpox screensaver follows on from a similar anti-cancer initiative at Oxford University.

The first such project of its kind, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), analyses radio telescope data.

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Re: Computers enlisted for bioterror fight
Posted on 6-Feb-2003 10:24:16
#1 ]
Elite Member
Joined: 24-Dec-2002
Posts: 2630
From: Glasgow, UK

Hmmm, IIRC Russia & the US are the only ones with any smallpox virus left....Russia probably has sold some to saddam or some other nut.


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Re: Computers enlisted for bioterror fight
Posted on 6-Feb-2003 10:54:30
#2 ]
Regular Member
Joined: 24-Jan-2003
Posts: 486
From: Back in the dales

i doubt wheater russia would run the risk of a nother cold war with america and other countries anyway i am bemused by this news i just don't know what to think.

Dogs come when called, We cats take a messege and get back later - maybe!!!!

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Re: Computers enlisted for bioterror fight
Posted on 8-Jul-2004 21:39:53
#3 ]
Regular Member
Joined: 4-Feb-2004
Posts: 197
From: :morF

Wonder if they ever made an Amiga client


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