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High speed computer networks kickstart new anti-malarial drug development

Page history last edited by Rosemary 8 years, 11 months ago


Scientists are using grids — high-speed computing networks — as a large-scale and cheaper way to kick-start new drug development against malaria parasites. Wide In Silico Docking On Malaria (WISDOM) links a network of high-power computers that 'match' the structures of known chemical compounds with three-dimensional structural data describing important metabolic proteins from the parasite.

Using virtual screening researchers can suggest promising new weak points within the protein for drug designers to target.

They have already screened one well-known target enzyme and a promising new enzyme found in malaria parasites against 4.3 million compounds. The results are published in Malaria Journalthis month (1 May)

''Computers are especially useful in finding the best sources for new drugs — so we can tackle multi-drug resistance as the parasite evolves to survive existing drugs,'' said bioinformatics researcher and PhD student Marli Botha, of South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a co-author of the study and one of only two African researchers involved.

Disease laboratories in under-resourced countries can use this open-source information to run effective and inexpensive small-scale drug design programmes, said co-author Giulio Rastelli, from Italy's University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. In future, said lead researcher Vinod Kasam, from the Clermont-Ferrand particle physics laboratory in France, the computer will 'hit' multiple targets simultaneously, speeding up the process and reducing costs even more.

Virtual screening is not just cost-effective; it produces a vast library of information which can be used by other researchers in other aspects of malaria research, according to co-author Raul Isea from Venezuela's Biosciences and Molecular Medicine Centre at the Advanced Studies Institute Foundation. And computer-based drug design projects are already helping find new drugs against HIV/AIDS, flu, polio and other diseases. Virtual screening should also be ideal for combating the fourteen neglected diseases listed by the WHO.

''We want to draw attention to the opportunity offered by this grid-enabled virtual screening approach for producing short lists of particularly promising molecules, which can be tested in the laboratory at a reduced cost,'' says Martin Hofmann-Apitius, from the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing in Germany, who helped to create and supervise the study. Grids also form a convenient global platform for exchanging the chemical data produced, said Vincent Breton, a founder of the WISDOM and several other grid initiatives.

Link to full article in Malaria Journal [2.56MB] 

This story, entitled Grid computing guiding malaria drug discovery, was written by Christina Scott and Marielba Núñez and published by SciDev.Net May 11, 2009, datelined Cape Town and Caracas. SciDev.Net – the Science and Development Network – is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing reliable and authoritative information about science and technology for the developing world. Its website gives policymakers, researchers, the media and civil society information and a platform to explore how science and technology can reduce poverty, improve health and raise standards of living around the world.


For other stories about malaria, see:

Hedge funds do business against malaria

Cross-border cooperation reduces malaria risk in southern Africa

Malaria Vaccine Initiative works to provide hope for saving lives

Sri Lanka is close to eliminating malaria as a deadly scourge

Ground-breaking malaria findings may aid drug, vaccine development

MalariaEngage hopes social networking will bring funds to African researchers

Cell phone can monitor HIV and malaria patients, test water quality

Mobile phones and FrontLineSMS help contain malaria in Cambodia

Mapping malaria risk in Africa leads to more effective malaria control

Health care by mobile phone helps parents save childrens’ lives in Congo

New global map shows where malaria could be better controlled, or eliminated

Leaders of Africa’s faith communities work together to prevent malaria deaths

Malaria's bitter pill made sweeter for children

Cheap and simple community-based measures save childrens' lives worldwide

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