New Zealanders donating computer time to global AIDS research

Auckland 30 November 2006The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is partnering with IBM New Zealand on World AIDS Day to help the fight against this deadly virus by harnessing the massive computational power of the World Community Grid, a global humanitarian effort that brings together the collective power of millions of individual PCs and business computers to address the world's most urgent challenges.

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As an IBM World Community Grid partner, the Foundation will encourage New Zealanders to donate unused computer power to the FightAIDS@Home initiative. This evolutionary research project is dedicated to finding new AIDS therapies lead by the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute.

The Foundation's 48 staff are also participating in this humanitarian technology initiative, which makes them the first New Zealand community organisation to contribute the World Community Grid. They join more than 235.000 volunteers and close to 450.000 individual PCs across the globe donating idle computer power to create a virtual supercomputer that powers the Grid's research efforts.

"With HIV and AIDS affecting 40 million people worldwide, the problem can seem overwhelming - people think, what can I possibly do to help?" stated Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. "Joining the World Community Grid is a way for individuals to make a very real difference by barely lifting a finger. We encourage all computer owners to take five minutes to join in this effort."

HIV is one of the most deadly viruses in the history of humankind, and has no cure. People living with HIV rely on combinations of drugs therapies to halt the progress of the virus inside their bodies, but the virus is constantly adapting, changing and developing resistance to these therapies, requiring the development of new combinations.

"In developing new drug therapies, time is our greatest asset", Rachael Le Mesurier continued. "We need to move faster than the virus. By deploying more powerful computers, researchers can help us stay one step ahead."

Joining the Grid involves downloading and installing a free, small, safe and secure software programme that is similar to a screensaver. When idle, the computer requests data from World Community Grid's server. Computations are performed with this data, and the results are sent back to the server. The process is transparent and volunteers should see no difference in the speed of their computers. World Community Grid will not start working unless the computer is truly idle and power is available.

"While it may be a virtual supercomputer, the challenge it's helping to address is very real", stated IBM New Zealand managing director Katrina Troughton. "At IBM, we are committed to creating innovation that matters for our company and for the benefit of our society. Thanks to the World Community Grid, AIDS researchers have been able to complete five years of computations in less than six months. This is a significant contribution to the work involved in developing treatments for AIDS."

More news on the World Community Grid is available in the VMW August 2006 article Help Defeat Cancer Project launched on IBM's World Community Grid expected to speed cancer research.


Leslie Versweyveld

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