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All-round Check

Wednesday, 25 March 2020, Universität, Forschen

Styrians work with Harvard and Google on possible drugs against Covid-19: some two billion agents are to be tested

Once again, Styrian Coronavirus research is attracting international attention. Together with the renowned Harvard University, the project in which some two billion potentially effective agents against COVID-19 are going to be screened with the aid of computers, has just started. The Google parent company, Alphabet contributes unlimited Google Cloud computing power to allow the simulation of such a vast number of agents for the first time in history. Vienna Scientific Cluster, a collaboration between several Austrian universities, also provides the resources of its supercomputers.

“In virtual drug discovery at this scale, the biggest challenge is not only to obtain the data for these billions of compounds, but computing power. At the moment we assume that we have to perform more than 100 billion individual computations as every potential compound is being screened individually. We are delighted to receive Austrian and international support from the Vienna Scientific Cluster and Alphabet, respectively,” says Christian Gruber, CEO of Innophore, a spin off company of the University of Graz and acib, the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology.


Harvard Medical School contributes promising method
The novelty in this project’s approach is in the computer-aided method used to screen all the individual agents. “Virtual Flow” was developed at the Harvard Medical School and recently published in Nature, one of the leading scientific journals. Together with the University of Graz, acib contributes its Austrian-wide resources. “We are very pleased that biotechnology know-how from Styria is appreciated all over the world and actively contributes to fighting the Coronavirus,” comments Mathias Drexler, Managing Director at acib.

Graz-based start-up Innophore had already attracted international attention in recent weeks by suggesting agents suitable for clinical studies. Currently, Innophore supports Harvard’s Virtual Flow process by simulating countless potential starting points of druggable targets using its patented 3D point cloud technology. The results are filtered by artificial intelligence before feeding them into
the Virtual Flow pipeline. “Even though some promising drugs have been identified already, the project we are launching still has lots of potential to find further suitable candidates. Combining the 3D point cloud technology with large scale virtual screening and vast computing power is promising and we can’t wait to see what results we will achieve over the coming weeks,” Prof. Arthanari from Harvard Medical School concludes.

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