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Computing grid hunts for bird flu cure

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Scientists in the United Kingdom and Asia have deployed a computing grid to find a potential cure for Avian flu.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) said Thursday that it put up a grid computing project, which was originally designed for particle physicists to perform data searches, for an international effort aimed at locating drug components to combat the virus H5N1, known as the Avian flu. The virus has taken a deadly toll on bird populations in Asia and Europe, and scientists fear it could spread to humans, causing a flu pandemic.

As part of the international collaboration, known simply as the "Grid," about 2,000 computers from various research labs were used throughout April to run a drug discovery application and analyze 30,000 different compounds for a potential virus inhibitor. Scientists are now reviewing results from the computer screening to predict which compounds and chemical fragments would be most effective at blocking the virus if it mutated, according to PPARC.

"With the help of the high-speed computing and huge data managing capabilities of the Grid, possible drug components can be screened and studied very rapidly by the available computer modeling applications," Ying-Ta Wu, biologist at the Genomics Research Center of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, said in a statement.

Wu, whose lab participated in Grid, added: "This will free up medicinal chemists' time to better respond to instant, large-scale threats."

The total computing power used during the four weeks in April was equivalent to the power used more than 100 years on a single PC. The application created more than 60,000 files with a data volume of 600 gigabytes, according to the researchers.

PPARC contributed to the international effort a computing grid initiative known as GridPP, which is a searchable database of particle physics experiments. It evolved to work within a larger grid computing project known as Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) that lets scientists share resources and involves PCs at 11 research labs and universities. Alone, those PCs put in 100,000 hours of time searching for possible drug components to work against Avian flu.

"With these results, the Grid demonstrates that it is a powerful and reliable resource for scientists, opening up new research possibilities and improving existing methods," said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

A host of scientists joined together to deploy the global drug discovery application. They included the Academia Sinica Grid Computing Team in Taiwan; Corpuscular Physics Laboratory of Clermont-Ferrand in France; and the Institute for Biomedical Technologies, CNR, in Italy.

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14 comments

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Put the robots to work
Also I thought that they had an actual bird vaccine to innoculate the birds. Probably would be hard to keep innoculating the birds?

I am curious as to how these things die out. We obviously have had extreme advanced detection compared to other eras. How is this effecting the flues half-life.

Are we creating a supervirus by not allowing it to take its toll in the bird population by culling birds. Allot of questions. Obviously it hasn't really spred to humans yet. But it probably wont if we can contain the birbs like were doing. Will it die out though without evelutionary means.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The normal flu virus never die out even when there is no culling
of affected humans.
Not sure if it is possible to actually kill out viruses?
Logically but inhumanely and unrealistically speaking, a way to fight HIV would be to isolate all HIV patient and let them die out without contact with non infected people. Well unfortunately it cannot be done.
Posted by pjianwei (206 comments )
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Waste or Haste?
So much to say don't know where to begin.
I'm going to be careful to not sound like a conspirisist(someone who like conspiracies).

First, I want to know if any "cures" or anything useful has come from doing what the general public sees as generic "research" from these computing grids. Computing grids have been around for a long time and I haven't heard of any new cures or antiviral meds from doing "research" using a computing grid...or computers at all for that matter.

Second, why the stupid Avian Flu anyway? It hasn't even mutated to infect humans yet! It may never either. Why don't these people focus this effort on AIDS research? Or any other disease that is ALREADY affecting humans. Combined with already 30 years or so of research and information gathered on AIDS, the computing grid may be better used researching a cure for AIDS.
Posted by cyboreric (9 comments )
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Maybe it is due to the fact that it is easier to
contact a flu virus than the HIV virus passively. I would believe that the normal flu virus kills more people than HIV virus does.
Posted by pjianwei (206 comments )
Link Flag
Lot's of stuff has come from compute grids...
In the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
However, it's not as if you throw something on
the grid and "poof" a cure pops out the other
end.

These grids are performing various docking and
annealing simulations to find inhibitors (in
this case, anyway). Once you've ranked the pool
of best hits, you'd need to screen them for
cross-reactivity and specificity, then you need
to start conducting wet-lab experiments, and
finally produce a drug from it. Clinical trials
alone would take years.

Avian flu *HAS* infected humans (a little over
200 dead so far). In its current forms its not
virulent (easily passed between people), though
human mortality is quite high (about 55%).
Passage is principally from animal to human via
transfer of bodily fluids (namely, during the
slaughter or handling of infected birds or
objects contaminated by them).

The problem is that of virulence. It's highly
virulent among birds -- which move around a lot
-- thus it is being globally seeded. Being an
RNA virus, it also mutates pretty quickly making
it a difficult target for drug or vaccine
development, and also indicating that the
virulence among humans has a good potential to
develop. If it becomes virulent in humans,
there's not much that can be done medically
about it at this point. To make things worse,
the symptoms are quite different than that of
conventional flu, meaning the earliest cases may
go unrecognized.

AIDS already has a VERY big research base behind
it and it's etiology is pretty well
characterized. While there's no "cure" for AIDS,
there are some very good treatments. HIV is
still far less virulent (it's hard to transmit
casually), though people tend to carry it for a
long time (many people are living 10-20 years
with treatment today). HIV works in an entirely
manner too.

Anyway, it's true that about 350,000 people die
of flu each year, as opposed to about 10x as
many for AIDS -- world-wide, but in the US, AIDS
is not even in the top 10 as far as diseases
causing death go, and outside the US,
tuberculosis and malaria beat out AIDS hands
down.

But, to put it into perspective, if this
particular strain of flu becomes as virulent as
regular flu and doesn't loose it's lethality, it
would easily kill more people globally than
everyone that's died of AIDS to date, assuming
you don't have a good protocol for treatment
when it happens (and flu pandemics happen every
50 years or so; just that this one has carriers
that fly rather than scurry and its demonstrably
more deadly in the few cases where people have
gotten it).
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
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Message has been deleted.
Posted by Pop4 (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Save Your MIPS, Nerds
A cure for bird flu in humans has already been developed by AVI Biopharma. They are working on many unique cures for all influenza type-a viruses. Their Hepatitis-C cure is currently in Phase 2 testing. Their compounds will also reportedly work for HIV patients. Check out their website:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.antivirals.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.antivirals.com/</a>
Posted by 1btb (19 comments )
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already been developed??
oh thats why it's being sold to countless countries around the globe and people are being innoculated at my local hospital....


oops, sorry... that's YOUR fanstasy.
Posted by The user with no name (259 comments )
Link Flag
Pandemic Bird Flu Preparedness Guide
A free Pandemic Bird Flu Preparedness Guide is available at: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pandemicinfosite.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.pandemicinfosite.com</a>
Posted by mrjohna (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pandemic Bird Flu Preparedness Guide
A free Pandemic Bird Flu Preparedness Guide is available at: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pandemicinfosite.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.pandemicinfosite.com</a>
Posted by mrjohna (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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