Nov 082010
 
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Not using your computer at the moment? You can now donate your computer’s idle time to cutting-edge biomedical research aimed at finding a cure for HIV, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and breast cancer.

Through the University of Delaware‘s “[email protected]” project, led by Michela Taufer, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, and supported by the National Science Foundation, more than 6,000 volunteers worldwide are donating their computer’s idle time to perform scientific calculations that will aid in creating new and improved medicines to thwart these major diseases.

Before new drugs can be produced for laboratory testing, researchers must create molecular models and simulate their interactions to reveal possible candidates for effective drugs. This simulation is called “docking,” Taufer explains.

Since the combinations of molecules and their binding orientations are infinite, simulating as many combinations as possible requires tremendous computing power, Taufer notes, and supercomputers often have a long waiting line or are too expensive to use for extended periods. Thus, researchers have turned to citizen volunteers for help, which enables them to distribute the hundreds of thousands of computing tasks across a large number of computers.

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