The announcement of the grant comes at a time when fears are rising that an influenza outbreak developing from Asian chickens could kill thousands of people.
Professor Ian Williams, of the Department of Chemistry, will begin work in April on a project that could help pharmaceutical companies develop a better drug that could be taken by people coming down with flu to stop the disease developing.
The drug would work by being chemically very similar to part of the protective coating around the cells in our throats that the flu virus first attacks when a person becomes infected. The flu virus would be deceived into attacking the drug, called an inhibitor, instead of the cells.
The three-year project will be largely carried out by examining the behaviour of atoms of the influenza virus which attack cells, and atoms of the throat cells that are attacked. By using advanced software to model the way these atoms behave in highly complex interactions, the atomic structure of a suitable drug can be worked out.
Using computer modelling in this way can be of great assistance in drug design. Normally drugs are produced by trial and error in a process that can take many years.
Professor Williams and his colleague Dr Gus Ruggiero will use part of the grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to buy computers with a combined power many times that of the most advanced desktop machines.
This will be the first time the software, developed in Germany, will have been used in Britain. It will allow accurate modelling of the behaviour of tens of thousands of atoms, many times more sophisticated than previous work.
“Developing a blueprint for a new way of fighting influenza is a very important
Source:University of Bath