This was originally published in ‘The Nerve’ the Southampton Biological Society Paper:
Ever wanted to change the world? Thanks to the World Community Grid (WCG) you can help to cure Cancer, AIDS, famine and global warming.
The WCG describes its mission as being to create “the world’s largest public computing grid to tackle projects that benefit humanity”. It is a non-profit organisation through which you can help the research into AIDS, Muscular Dystrophy and Cancer amongst many other projects. Their concept is a simple one and made easy through the download of their specific software onto your home computer, acting during idle processing. in order to compute data for a variety of different research ventures.
There are a wide range of projects that have been undertaken by the WCG. One recently completed project was the formation of climate models in Africa to try and predict the effects of global warming. The research began in September 2007 and was completed in July of this year, and the conclusion of the analysis will be published in peer review journal in the near future.
The ability of the WCG to tackle these complicated research projects is dependant on those willing to download the programme and, as a result, aid science. From February 2007 there were around 500,000 computers signed up in 200 different countries, this generates 75,000 years of running time making the collective amongst the top 5 super computers in the world.
One of the longest running projects is known as FightAIDS@Home launched in November 2005. In this project your computer power is used to design potential HIV-1 Protease inhibitors. The WCG uses a system called AutoDock which uses your spare processing power to computationally simulate the binding of a wide range of ligands to the HIV-1 protease molecule in the hope of finding successful inhibitors. The results of these simulations are then used to decide which molecules should be lab tested to test their effect on HIV-1 protease.
Another similar venture set up is ‘Folding Home’, a wide area computational network which utilises the processing power of the Playstation 3, allowing the decoding of individual chemical structures sent over in packets via the internet to Playstation users.
One of the great advantages of this software is that it requires minimal effort for those who sign up and offers a lot of benefits. The programme includes a screensaver which shows the molecule you are currently helping to ‘dock’ or the structure you are helping to produce as well as the progress of this process. Also for those who have an interest in the in depth science of the research process reports are published which go into the intricate details of the research compared to the ‘dummed down’ information on the main website. But perhaps the greatest benefit is knowing that you are playing your part in cutting edge research and helping to solve some of the worlds greatest problems.