There is an effort under way between the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and the University of Edinburgh to harness IBM’s supercomputing power to simulate, and potentially generate a method to inhibit HIV’s targeting of cells.
The project includes powerful computing technology, including IBM’s Blue Gene supercomputer, combined with new experimental characterization aimed at targeting the infection process itself by designing inhibitors for the part of the virus responsible for allowing the virus’ genetic material to enter the human cell.
The new aspect of the collaboration is its attempt to design simultaneously multiple inhibitors and to thereby prevent the cagey virus from mutating and thereby invalidating the drug therapy as it does with single inhibitors.
“Our early results are promising, showing that we can use computers to simulate which molecules can stop the HIV virus from infecting humans, which drug makers could then use to more rapidly develop those drugs,” said Jason Crain, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Divisional Head of Science at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. “This is a new approach to drug design — we are using sophisticated algorithms coupled with experimental techniques to design improved molecular therapies, and we can capitalize on enormous computing power to do this efficiently and rationally.”
The project is focused on how the human HIV-1 virus attaches to cells in the body and injects its genetic material. Researchers are examining a fragment of the surface protein of the virus, known as a peptide, which is crucial in stimulating the body’s immune response to viral attack. Understanding the structure and behavior of the peptide will allow for multiple drugs to be designed simultaneously capable of targeting the infection process.
“One of the great challenges in the medical community is to find a vaccine for the HIV virus,” said IBM Researcher Glenn Martyna. “By combining the experimental research of University of Edinburgh and the simulation capabilities of the world’s most powerful supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene, we just might get much closer to that goal.”
Press release: IBM and University of Edinburgh Use World’s Most Advanced Supercomputer to Tackle HIV Virus Before It Infects Human Cells…
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