Grid project finds leads on smallpox drugs

The Smallpox Research Grid Project has harnessed the idle cycles of 2.5 million PCs in 190 countries via a downloadable screensaver to find drugs that might be effective against smallpox.

'When this project was first explained to me, I thought it was rather Jules Verne-ish,' said Army Brig. Gen. Patricia L. Nilo, acting deputy assistant secretary of Defense for chemical and biological defense.

Nilo, who received the results last month, said the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the 44 most promising drug candidates.

The grid computing effort took 39,000 years' worth of donated CPU time to study 35 million molecules. Grid.org has received many requests to join other medical research efforts, said Ed Hubbard, chief executive officer of United Devices Inc. of Austin, Texas, which led the smallpox study.

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