Whether vibrating in place or taking part in protein folding to ensure cells function properly, molecules are never still. Simulating molecular motions provides researchers with information critical to designing vaccines and helps them decipher the bases of certain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, that result from molecular motion gone awry.
In the past, researchers needed either supercomputers or large computer clusters to run simulations. Or they had to be content to run only a tiny fraction of the process on their desktop computers. But a new open-source software package developed at Stanford University is making it possible to do complex simulations of molecular motion on desktop computers at much faster speeds than has been previously possible.
"Simulations that used to take three years can now be completed in a few days," said Vijay Pande, an associate professor of chemistry at Stanford University and principal investigator of the Open Molecular Mechanics (OpenMM) project. "With this first release of OpenMM, we focused on small molecular systems simulated and saw speedups of 100 times faster than before."
OpenMM is a collaborative project between Pande's lab and Simbios, the National Center for Physics-based Simulation of Biological Structures at Stanford, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health. The project is described in a paper that was scheduled to be posted online Feb. 3 in the "Early View" section of the Journal of Computational Chemistry.
The key to the accelerated simulations OpenMM makes possible is the advantage it takes of current graphics processors (GPUs), which cost just a few hundred dollars. At its core, OpenMM makes use of GPU acceleration, a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that enable GPUs, working in concert with the system's central processor (CPU), to accelerate applications beyond just creating or manipulating graphics.
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|Contact: Louis Bergeron|