Crowd-sourcing antimalarial drug discovery
To discover novel targets for antimalarial drugs.
Malaria kills a child every 45 seconds. The disease is most prevalent in poorer countries, where it infects 216 million people and kills 650,000 each year, mostly African children under 5 years old [WHO]. And Plasmodium falciparum continues to evolve resistance to available medication. We therefore urgently need to discover new drugs to replace existing drugs. Importantly, these new drugs need to target NEW proteins in the parasite. The FightMalaria@Home project is aimed at finding these new targets.
The Plasmodium falciparum genome has been sequenced, the proteome has been mapped, and protein expression has been confirmed at various stages in this apicoplexan's life cycle. Numerous crystal structures of target proteins are also available, and the remainder have been modelled using available structural templates. Excitingly, large research organisations (GSK, Novartis) have already tested millions of compounds and found nearly 19,000 hits that show promising activity against Plasmodium falciparum [MMV]. But they don't know which target protein is inhibited by these compounds. Drug discovery and development will be significantly enhanced by knowing the target protein for each of these hits.
We plan to dock each of the 18,924 hits into structures of each of the 5,363 proteins in the malaria parasite. The computational power needed is enormous.
We aim to harness the donated computational power of the world's personal computers. Most computers only use a fraction of their available CPU power for day-to-day computation. We have built a BOINC server that distributes the docking jobs to donated 'client' computers, which then do the work in the background. By connecting 1000s of computers this way, we'll be able harness the equivalent power of large supercomputers. If you would like to get involved, please follow the very quick installation instructions here.
An introduction to FightMalaria@Home from Complex and Adaptive Systems Lab on Vimeo.