In The Press

Upper Kirby Joins IBM, UTMB to Fast Track Medical Research

by Travis Younkin
Intown Magazine, April 2008

When you think of all of the problems affecting the global community these days, the problems seem insurmountable and the prospect of one person impacting real change is a daunting concept at best. Besides, who has extra lime to volunteer or extra money to donate? Well, thnnks to IBM's World Community Grid, you can make a difference in some of today's most pressing issues without volunteering any time or donating any money.

The concept is simple. Let your computer do your philanthropic work for you. The IBM Corporation has done all the leg work, donating all of the hardware, software and know-how to develop one of the largest charitable research projects ever undertaken. By harnessing the unused time on individual computers connected to a vast, worldwide network, IBM has been successful in drastically speeding up scientific research, seeking solutions to problems ranging from disease to climate change.

By downloading The World Community Grid software on your home or work PC, your computer will spend its idle time completing small packets of research calculations and sending them back to the central system, calculations that without the World Community Grid, would have taken hundreds of thousands of years to complete. The project, which began in 2004, now has over 927,000 computing devices conneced to the network and has generated an astounding 148.000 years of computing time. According to IBM's Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, Sandy Dochen, the World Community Grid expects to have over a million devices working together by late May or early June of this year.

The Upper Kirby District, the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce and the Upper Kirby YMCA recenrly joined the effort, commitiing the use of their staff computers as well as the workstations donated by IBM last year that outfit the recently opened Journey to Learning Think Center. This new facility, which provides space and equipment for a numher of community educational programs to be offered at 3015 Richmond, Suite 190 in the Upper Kirby District building, will now also be volunteering idle computer time to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) project, "Developing Dengue Drugs — Together."

A research team at UTMB led by Dr. Stan Watowich has been using the World Community Grid for this project since August to process millions of calculations aimed at developing compounds that could inhibit the spread of a family of viral diseases called flaviviruses. These are responsible for such well known diseases as Hepatitis C, Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus and Yellow Fever. These diseases all share a common enzyme which is needed for viral replication, the NS3 protease. Dr. Watowich and his team will use the calculations generated by volunteer computers to test millions of potential drug molecules that could fit the protease and inhibit replication. Without the help of such 3 massive grid of computers, testing the three million potential drug molecules wold have been an insurmountable task. Finding the right fit, however, could mean the first effective drug treatment ever to combat these diseases.

"We have completed 4,000 years of computer work in just five months. Even on a supercomputer this would have taken several years," says Dr. Watowich. "As the grid grows and we develop new ways to use the system, this could take a matter of weeks."

Using this method to speed up medical research, the possibilities are limitless. Dr. Watowich notes that almost any disease, from Malaria to Influenza to Cancer can be targeted using the World Community Grid.

You can become part of this worldwide solution by visiting to become a member and you, or better yet, your business or organization can partner in solving humanity's most urgent issues.

Travis Younkin is a Journalism graduate from Texas A&M University. currently working for the Upper Kirby District, Travis is a native Houstonian and singer/songwriter in the intown area. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.