Checkmate on infectious diseases

IBM and Scripps collaborate on pandemic research

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Yorktown Heights, NY, USA - 15 Feb 2006: IBM technology and expertise offers new hope in the battle against the spread of pandemic viruses, such as Avian Flu.

A collaborative effort called Project Checkmate brings together IBM and The Scripps Research Institute — a leading research institute in life sciences — to conduct advanced research on pandemic viruses. The objective? To anticipate, manage and contain infectious diseases.

IBM has pooled its expertise across the Research, Health Care & Life Sciences, and Business Consulting Services teams to be a part of this project. Dr. Ajay Royyuru, senior manager of the IBM Computational Biology Center will lead the IBM Research team along with Dr. Nicholas Tsinoremas from Scripps. IBM's expertise in computational biology and supercomputing, combined with Scripps' knowledge in bio-chemical modeling and drug discovery, will be aided by access to Blue Gene and a new Scripps biomedical research facility.

Project Checkmate will investigate the emergence of new virus strains and the corresponding immune system response in humans and animals. This new information will help the researchers to better understand and proactively anticipate the behavior of these complex viruses, as well as an immunological means to contain them.

"Making Checkmate a reality will present some interesting technical challenges, where I expect IBM Research technologies will be a big help," said Royyuru. "For instance, the anticipation and containment strategy of this project will require development of new algorithms to take advantage of Blue Gene scale supercomputing. Also, the biopatterning and microfluidics technologies out of Zurich Research Lab will play a big role in enabling high throughput screening and detection of antigen-antibody complexes."

Speed of execution is also a critical challenge given the rise of avian flu in the worldwide bird population, and its sporadic human incidence.

Collaborative innovation
One of the goals of this project is collaboration with leading researchers worldwide. To be successful, expertise will be required across diverse disciplines ranging from virology, immunology, public health, bio-surveillance, epidemiology, modeling and simulation, and supercomputing.

"It is important that IBM collaborate with other experts in the field for innovation to happen," said Royyuru. "To truly make a difference, we have to recognize the hardest problems and tackle them collaboratively."

The project team will engage with pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and key enterprises to implement the findings from Project Checkmate, with the hope of managing and containing future infectious diseases.

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