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UK Computer Grid In Bird Flu Fight

lp answer questions about the conditions in the Universe just after the Big Bang, but the same resources and techniques can be exploited by other sciences with a more direct benefit to society."

"With these results, the Grid demonstrates that it is a powerful and reliable resource for scientists, opening up new research possibilities and improving existing methods," said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media. "I am very grateful to see that the European flagship Grid infrastructure is contributing to solving current and socially important problems such as avian flu."

The goal was to find potential compounds that can inhibit the activities of an enzyme on the surface of the influenza virus, the so-called neuraminidase, subtype N1. One of the targets of existing drugs today on the market is viral neuraminidase, an enzyme that helps the virus to proliferate and infect more cells. As this protein is known to evolve into variants if it comes under drug stress, drug resistance becomes a potential concern in case of an influenza pandemic.

The challenge of the drug discovery application is to identify those molecules which can dock on the active sites of the virus in order to inhibit its action. To study the impact of small scale mutations on drug resistance, a large set of compounds was screened against the same neuraminidase target but with various, slightly different structures. With the results from the computer screening, researchers can predict which compounds and chemical fragments are most effective for blocking the active neuraminidases in case of mutations.

"With the help of the high-speed computing and huge data managing capabilities of the Grid, possible drug components can be screened and studied very rapidly by the available computer modelling applications," says Ying-Ta Wu, biologist at the Genomics Research Center of the Academia Sinica in Taipei. "This will free up medicin
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