Internet PC's to Counter Bioterrorism
Tuesday 15 October 2002
Find-a-Drug is pleased to announce the start of its Bioterrorism Antidotes project. There is an urgent need to find new drugs that are effective against antibiotic resistant forms of diseases such as plague, smallpox and anthrax. Find-a-Drug is planning to utilise the idle time on thousands of Personal Computers (PC's) all over the world to form a large virtual supercomputer.
"The plague bacterium has been chosen as the first target because of the very real threat of its use in bio-warfare or bio-terrorist attacks", comments Professor Erec Stebbins of Rockefeller University, New York. In the middle ages, plague alone exterminated over one-third of the European population - its world-wide death toll is estimated to be in excess of 200 million people. A protein which plays a critical role in the development of the disease is known, and a small molecule which inhibits the action of this protein has the potential to be a new class of bio-terrorism antidote.
"The THINK software allows hundreds of millions of molecules to be evaluated as potential new drug molecules", comments Keith Davies, Scientific Director of Find-a-Drug. PC's participating in the project process sets of 10,000 molecules downloaded from the internet. When the PC is not being used by its owner, the software displays each molecule in turn and explores possible interactions with a protein target. Molecules which are predicted to inhibit the target protein are returned to Find-a-Drug as "hits".
PC owners may participate in the project by downloading the THINK software and molecules from www.find-a-drug.org. The information about protein and molecule data as well as the hits is encrypted to ensure that it is securely transmitted between the PCs and Find-a-Drug internet servers. Once installed, the software does not require any interaction by the owner nor does it impact on normal use of the PC because it runs in background or as a screen-saver.
It is planned to make the results of this project available to UK and US governments as well as selected academic collaborators.
To participate visit www.find-a-drug.org.
For further information please contact:
Tel: Keith Davies +44 1386 871670 or 07879 495105
The THINK software was also used in collaboration with Oxford University in the search for an anthrax inhibitor earlier this year. The results of this earlier project were provided to the United States Department of Defence where the choice of molecules to make and test as potential inhibitors is being reviewed and refined.
Keith Davies is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Chemistry in the University of Oxford. He has worked in the field of computational chemistry for over 20 years and founded Chemical Design in 1983. This company gained the Queens Award for Export in 1988 and was listed on the London Stock Market (AIM) in 1996. At Chemical Design he was Technical Director and CEO. In 1998, Keith sold his remaining shares to Oxford Molecular Plc.
Dr. Erec Stebbins is currently Assistant Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Structural Microbiology at the Rockefeller University. He hopes to be able to validate the results of the computations by determining the 3-dimensional structure of a potential drug interacting with the protein target using X-ray crystallography. This technique was used by him in his Ph. D. studies at Cornell University in the laboratory of Dr. Nikola Paveltich at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He pursued postdoctoral studies in bacterial pathogenesis with Dr. Jorge Galan at Yale University.