The results of the anthrax project run from the Oxford University Department of Chemistry are being handed to the US Department of Defense and the UK government. Professor Graham Richards will hand over a compact disc containing data of some 300,000 molecules which look like promising candidates to form the basis for a cure for anthrax. The hand-over event will take place at the UK Embassy in Washington DC.
The project was launched on 22 January and took less than four weeks to complete. It involved using screensaver time on 1.4 million personal computers in over 200 countries, screening some 3.5 billion molecules as possible inhibitors of the assembly of the anthrax toxin. Preliminary results indicate approximately 300,000 possible candidates for further research, with some 12,000 being particularly promising.
Professor Graham Richards, Chairman of Chemistry at Oxford University and scientific director of the project, said: "The realm of life sciences is in for a radical shift in its approach to drug discovery as shown by the phenomenal success of our virtual screening project to fight anthrax. Research that was believed to be impossible in my lifetime is now not only possible, but has been accomplished in a few short weeks."
The project has been run from the Centre for Computational Drug Design in the Department of Chemistry, which is funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research, with whom the Centre is conducting a year-long search for anti-cancer drugs. Sponsored by Intel and Microsoft, it uses software developed by Keith Davies of Treweren Consultants, and the distributed computer techniques of United Devices.
The project is documented on the website http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/anthrax
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