IBM World Community Grid Pioneering New Techniques in the Fight Against HIV

IBM World Community Grid Pioneering New Techniques in the Fight Against HIV

by Arthur Olson
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Model of a complete HIV virion

Monday, November 9, 2015 - 10:00am

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In a decade-long collaboration with over half a million World Community Grid volunteers, The Scripps Research Institute has made significant advances in the fight against HIV. With the virus constantly evolving, the research team is leveraging World Community Grid to pioneer the use of new analysis techniques to more quickly and accurately identify promising anti-HIV drug candidates. These techniques could prove effective for other medical research efforts too.


There have been some amazing advances in the fight against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including treatments that have improved and extended millions of lives. But the fight continues – HIV is continually mutating, and as it does it evolves resistance to existing treatments. With tens of millions of people currently living with HIV, and millions more infected every year, the search for more effective HIV treatments is as critical as ever. Our team at The Scripps Research Institute is therefore launching the next phase of our FightAIDS@Home project on World Community Grid to build on the success of the project and more accurately analyze the most promising drug candidates we’ve identified so far.

For almost a decade, our FightAIDS@Home research project has contributed to the fight against HIV by exploring different ways of disabling the virus. With access to an unprecedented amount of computing power donated by over 580,000 World Community Grid volunteers, we were able to expand our research and perform the biggest drug docking experiment ever conducted. Along the way, our team has improved the tools used in the fight, by developing – and validating – software tools to simulate chemical binding, and discovering new potential binding sites for drugs to attack. These tools have become the world’s most widely used and cited docking programs supporting many other medical research efforts.

The massive success of FightAIDS@Home also has generated a new challenge: a large number potential “hits” (chemicals that might form the basis of effective drugs) – a handful of which we’re synthesizing for additional testing. But because there are so many, it is prohibitively expensive and time consuming to synthesize and lab test all of those chemicals. We therefore need a new way to double-check and refine those results, and ensure that only the most thoroughly vetted and probable candidate compounds proceed for further investigation. The second phase of FightAIDS@Home will address both of these goals – refining the Phase 1 results and validating the technology needed to make more accurate simulations.

In this phase of our research, we’re using a new analysis technique which has proven effective at carrying out more accurate simulations, but thanks to World Community Grid volunteers, we now have an opportunity to apply it to analyze molecules at an unprecedented scale. This is important because if successful, these techniques can be applied to other drug discovery searches, not just those related to HIV.

So join us today and play a role in helping the millions of people afflicted with this deadly virus.

Arthur Olson, Ph.D., is the Anderson Research Chair Professor at The Scripps Research Institute, and founder and director of the Molecular Graphics Laboratory. His lab has created both AutoDock and AutoDock Vina, the world’s most widely used and cited molecular docking programs. Dr. Olson is the Director of the NIH-funded HIV Interaction and Viral Evolution (HIVE) Center. He initiated the volunteer computing HIV project, FightAIDS@Home, in 2000, which has run on IBM’s World Community Grid since 2005.

World Community Grid is an IBM philanthropic initiative that allows anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet to donate their devices’ unused processing power towards scientific research on health, poverty and sustainability. Learn more at

To learn more about IBM's Corporate Citizenship Contributions, see the IBM 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report.


Related Resources:

Pioneering a Molecular Approach to Fighting AIDS

Finding a Cure for Ebola


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