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UK Computer Grid In Bird Flu Fight

Computers in the UK have been busy. They have tolled up 100,000 hours of time as they collaborated in an effort to stop and control the spread of bird flu.// Researchers eleven UK universities and research labs have been working overtime as they screened possible drug components that could be effective against the H5N1 virus.

The computing Grid used in the UK was originally built to help particle physicists examine the huge amounts of data from their experiments. But it is now part of a wider project called EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE), that lets other scientists share its resources. As Professor Tony Doyle, Project Leader for the UK particle physics Grid, explains, "The Grid is useful for any kind of research that needs lots of computing power. In this case it's greatly speeded up a step in the search for drugs against avian flu, and we've been pleased to use the UK particle physics Grid to help."

A collaboration of Asian and European laboratories used an international Grid to analyse 300,000 possible drug components against the virus. 2000 computers were used during 4 weeks in April – the equivalent of 100 years on a single computer. More than 60 000 output files with a data volume of 600 Gigabytes were created. Potential drug compounds against avian flu are now being identified and ranked according to the binding energies of the docked models.

The computers used in the UK came from the Universities of Brunel, Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Lancaster, Manchester, Oxford, Royal Holloway University of London, University College London, and CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. They are all part of the GridPP project, which runs the UK particle physics Grid. Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), which funds GridPP says, "This project is a clear example of how developments in basic research can support wider applications. GridPP has been developed to he
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