IBM, screensaver to tackle smallpox

IBM and a host of technology partners are working on software for the U.S. Defense Department that will let the idle time of anyone's computer be devoted to investigate antismallpox drugs, the companies are expected to announce Wednesday. The project will take the form of a screensaver people can put on their PCs, in a effort similar to SETI@home, which scours radio telescope signals for evidence of extraterrestrial life. A group of research institutes will use the research and send their results to the Defense Department.

Partners in the effort include UnitedDevices, a company founded by SETI@home organizers; Accelrys, which specializes in pharmaceutical and chemical calculation software; and Evotec OAI, which provides drug discovery services. Although a vaccination exists for smallpox, there are no drugs for treating infected people, researchers involved in the effort say. Among those who plan to use the distributed calculation engine are Oxford University and the University of Essex in the United Kingdom; the Robarts Research Institute, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Western Ontario.

The partners are labeling the project the Smallpox Research Grid, illustrating the gradual broadening of the term "grid." "Grid" is now used to describe a range of systems, from loosely connected groups of thousands or millions of PCs to a collection of blade servers in a single chassis. Originally, grids generally were a federation of servers--often higher-end machines or supercomputers--that collectively tackle computing problems.

News source: c|net

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