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iSGTW Feature - Grids: a global home for serious science

Feature - Grids: a global home for serious science

World Community Grid has more than 315,000 members, running nearly 700,000 computing devices.
Image courtesy of World Community Grid

Just two weeks ago, public grid project World Community Grid launched their newest project: a global computing effort to find cures for dengue, West Nile and hepatitis C diseases.

Since 2004 World Community Grid has run seven projects, and already this year, science conducted using World Community Grid has resulted in the publication of two scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, with several more papers scheduled for the latter half of 2007.

The first paper detailed results from the Human Proteome Folding project and was published in PLoS Biology, a journal of the Public Library of Science; the second showcased results from Fight AIDS@Home and was published in the ACS Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

Hot on their scientific heels are papers expected from a U.S. team working on a cancer tissue microarray project, a French group with results from a muscular dystrophy project, and a Brazilian team working on a genome comparison project.

Project Executive Bill Bovermann says this wider recognition will be a big boost for World Community Grid, and for the science it supports.

"Both of these articles reference the role of World Community Grid and we expect this to encourage new research proposals once we have new visibility in the research community," he says. "This will also help us to attract more volunteer power, which will speed research work."

Using grid technology, the Human Proteome Folding project was able to distribute 26,000 years worth of analysis across computers in World Community Grid, completing the tasks in just 1.5 calendar years.
Image courtesy of the Human Proteome Folding project

The grid time machine

Rich Bonneau of New York University is the principal researcher with the Human Proteome Folding project and says grid technology was a revelation for his research.

"Running just the yeast portion of this project on the supercomputers at the Institute for Systems Biology would have taken about four years of dedicated run-time on the clusters available at the time," he says.

"World Community Grid was able to process the yeast genome in less than three weeks, and we could generate ten times as many structures as we do on our structure prediction server."

Thanks to this distributed computing power, Bonneau's project was able to graduate from processing the yeast genome in four years on one computer, to processing over 150 genomes-including the human genome-using 26,000 years of computer time in just 1.5 years of calendar time.

Bonneau's paper demonstrates that the yeast genome can be used as a benchmark for proving the worth of the structure prediction techniques pioneered in the Human Proteome Folding Project.

And his future plans for the project?

"The Human Proteome Folding phase 2 project is on track to achieve another quantum leap in progress," he says. "Malaria researchers are eagerly awaiting the results of a large number of proteins that are currently being processed. Next on our list of proteins to be processed are cancer biomarker proteins and other proteins involved in disease."

World Community Grid
was launched by IBM in 2004 and has run seven projects so far. New projects can be submitted to World Community Grid and must come from a public or non-profit organization, be adaptable to a grid environment, and directly benefit humanity. Results from WCG projects must be made available to the public.

- Cristy Burne, iSGTW

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