IBM supercomputer helps wage war on the common cold

Medical and technological advancements of the recent decade have finally paved the way to cure one of the most malevolent diseases: the common cold.

Scientists in Australia are using IBM supercomputing technology to simulate the 3D motion of the human rhinovirus and accelerate the development of new antiviral drugs.

Supercomputers such as IBM’s Blue Gene/Q enable such research. Before this, scientists couldn’t run simulations to form a complete picture of the virus; they could only form parts of it. The necessary processing power to include over 3 million atoms of the atom’s shell and the RNA genome was not available until they got the Blue Gene/Q.

“This will allow researchers to gain a more precise picture of how a drug attacks rhinovirus at the molecular level, and potentially lead to future treatments for other viruses,” Dr. John Wagner, the manager of the IBM Research Collaboratory for Life Sciences in Melbourne, Australia, wrote in a blog post today.

The simulation uses information from a new antiviral drug developed by Australian company Biota Holdings LTD, which is routinely given to people with medical conditions whose lives could be threatened if they are exposed to the common cold.

Researchers hope to learn how the virus interacts with drugs on a molecular level and use this information to combat other diseases in the same family. The supercomputer is also being used to fight a wide range of human diseases, such as epilepsy, cancer, polio and malaria.

Image courtesy of IBM Research