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wilnerby Robin Willner, vice president of IBM’s Global Community Initiatives

When IBM’s Watson computing system bested two human competitors on the Jeopardy! game show, The Scripps Research Institute received some of the $1 million first-place prize money.  Now, Scripps is launching a project to identify treatments for malaria, partially funded by the winnings — and it needs help from the general public to make it even more successful.

Why malaria?  For one thing, this is one of the world’s three deadliest infectious diseases.  Many strains of malaria have become resistant to available drugs.  In 2006, 247 million people became infected with malaria — the leading cause of death in Africa for those under age five.  According to the World Health Organization, malaria is both a disease of poverty and a cause of poverty.  Where prevalent, the disease can account for 40 percent of all public health costs.

To find a cure for this scourge, Scripps is is compressing 100 years of research into just one year by crunching numbers and performing simulations on IBM’s World Community Grid, which pools the spare power of volunteers’ PCs all over the world.  Researchers will use it to evaluate millions of compounds that might advance the development of drugs to cure mutant, drug-resistant strains of malaria.   Data from the experiments will be made available to the public.  If we can grow the number of laptops and PCs providing idle computer cycles to the research, we can find new treatments even sooner.  It’s safe and secure, and just takes a couple of minutes at www.worldcommunitygrid.org.

To participate in this historic effort, and to help Go Fight Against Malaria, feel free to sign up right now, here: www.worldcommunitygrid.org

Alex L. Perryman, Ph.D. a research associate at The Scripps Research Institute, blogs about the research in more detail, here .

Scripps has already used World Community Grid to identify the basis of two promising AIDS drugs.  Obviously, we rather enjoy working with them.

Go Fight Against Malaria is the 10th project actively running on World Community Grid since its inception seven years ago (happy birthday!).  During that time, 1.9 million PCs have been volunteered by 575,000 people in more than 80 countries.  Here’s how it works: World Community Grid gives each PC small computing assignments to perform when the devices aren’t otherwise being used by its owners.  It then sends the results to scientists seeking a faster way to cure disease, find renewable energy materials, create clean water techniques, and develop healthier food staples.

To ensure that it continues to deliver results to the researchers as expeditiously as possible, World Community Grid is challenging its members to help it each two-million registered devices by December 31, 2011.  It only needs 100,000 additional devices to reach this goal.


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