In this project, there is a collaboration between IBM and the University of Edinburgh in the utilization of the Blue Gene supercomputer for the simultaneous examination of different AIDS vaccines
Researchers of the IBM Research Laboratory in Haifa, in collaboration with a group of scientific institutions and industrial bodies from Europe, have developed an integrated system for managing the treatment of AIDS, called EUResist.
The system combines comprehensive databases and advanced technologies for data and information analysis, along with prediction tools and computer models, in order to predict how genetic mutations of the HIV virus will respond to treatments designed to stop the replication of the virus. Doctors who treat AIDS carriers and patients can use a system that was also developed by researchers at the research laboratory in Haifa to select the most effective drugs, and the drug combinations that are suitable for each patient.
Boaz Carmeli, director of the health and life sciences field at the IBM research laboratory in Haifa, noted that "monitoring the history of the treatments and the progress of the virus are essential in order to ensure the success of the treatment. The availability of the knowledge born on the basis of large amounts of data will allow doctors to take into account the special characteristics of the patient, the nature of the virus, its mutations and the state of the disease at any given moment."
The EUResist project combines the largest databases managed in Europe in the field of AIDS, and information on the response to the various treatments according to genetic analysis of the patients' profile and the virus. Most of the data comes from databases in Italy, Germany and Sweden. The research in Haifa is being carried out as part of the sixth framework program of the European community, and it also includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute, the University Hospital in Cologne, and the European Pharmaceutical Research Industry Association, EFPIA.
A supercomputer in Scotland will analyze new AIDS vaccines
The fight against AIDS is also the main goal of a five-year research program, shared by LibM and the Scottish University of Edinburgh, designed to develop a vaccine against the AIDS virus, which will prevent the virus from infecting human cells. As part of the research, teams from IBM and the University of Edinburgh will collaborate: the university team will bring its expertise in the fields of experimental research, while IBM makes available to the project the world's most powerful supercomputer, "Blue Gene". The computer will perform simulations of how different vaccines work and their ability to intercept the virus and destroy it before it infects the body's cells.
The collaboration aims to significantly reduce the amount of time required for research on each proposed vaccine - and to reduce the number of variables that must be tested in the framework of medical experiments in the laboratory and on humans. The ultimate goal facing the joint venture is to ensure faster research, faster development of a vaccine - in the hope of reaching a full vaccine against the disease as early as possible.
The researchers at the University of Edinburgh will develop vaccines that focus on different regions of the virus, which are responsible for the penetration of the virus's genetic load into the human cell. The collaboration with IBM will make it possible to simultaneously develop a large number of methods and blocking points - which will prevent the virus from undergoing a mutation that will allow it to bypass the drug treatment. The new approach to drug design, based on the computing and processing capabilities of "Blue Gene", makes use of sophisticated algorithms and advanced experimental methods, which will enable the improvement of the molecules used to treat carriers and patients.
The research focuses on how the HIV-1 virus communicates with the cells in the human body, and injects its genetic material into them. The scientists are examining a section of the protein that makes up the surface of the virus, also known as a peptide, which is an essential factor in stimulating the body's immune response to the attack of the virus. Understanding the structure and behavior of this peptide will make it possible to design several drugs at the same time, which will be able to focus on the infection process.
IBM's "Blue Gene" supercomputer was designed from the ground up to deal with this type of computational problem: simulation of how protein chains develop, virus mutations and the possible interaction of drugs within the human body. When the "Blue Gene" project was launched, in 1999, the developers wanted to present a completely new way of thinking and a new concept of the computing architecture, which would enable faster solutions to problems whose processing requires months and years of continuous calculation in conventional computer systems.
Dozens of universities, government bodies, research laboratories and industrial companies currently use IBM systems and services in the field of supercomputing. In 2004, the University of Edinburgh installed the first "Blue Gene" computer in Europe. The current collaboration with IBM focuses on imaging methods at the atomic level, using advanced IBM software tools that make it possible to utilize the ability of the BlueGene/L supercomputer in massively parallel processing - along with precise and advanced experimental technologies, all in order to identify how amino acids function and peptides, which are the building blocks of every protein.