Grid computing attacks smallpox

A grid-computing project designed to find drugs that would be effective against smallpox is more than halfway finished. About 2.5 million computers are running the Patriot Grid screensaver, said Paul Kirchoff, marketing vice president for United Devices Inc. of Austin, Texas.

The company, whose grid-computing platform is called Global MetaProcessor, plans to present its smallpox drug findings to the Defense Department.

The screensaver starts a simulation that tries to match nine so-called binding sites on two proteins from the smallpox virus against 35 million molecules from potential drugs. The screensaver downloads chunks of data from, processes it during idle cycles and uploads the results.

When United Devices announced the smallpox project in February, the company already had 1.75 million devices searching for cancer and anthrax remedies. Another 100,000 computers downloaded the screensaver in the first 48 hours after it was announced, Kirchoff said.

Participants have logged more than 84 million CPU hours on the smallpox project so far.

Kirchoff said company officials hope to present their results to the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in a couple of months. The time frame depends on how many more computers download the screensaver and whether researchers ask the company to study additional binding sites.

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