Zika virus has gradually covered the whole globe in its epidemic, increasing the threat day-by-day. After its inception in Brazil last year, it has now shown its presence in a majority of the countries. World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared it as a medical emergency and multiple pharmaceutical companies and Biotechs are working hard to sort out the investigational molecule for its management and treatment.
Till date, there is no news regarding the manufacturing of any medicine or vaccine, so far the cure is the preventative measures only. The medical community has reservations about the time taken by the pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for this virus as it needs to be cured on urgent basis.
International Business Machine Corp. (NYSE:IBM) in collaboration with Rutgers University is working on a project to identify the potential drugs and their role in the management and treatment of Zika virus. The University will use IBM’s World Community Grid to look into the options of minimizing the time duration needed in identifying the molecule.
The volunteers in a blink of an eye can manage to send information to the researchers, while busy in their daily normal activities.
The main aim of the community grid is to involve the professionals on a combined tech platform while working on their laptops, desktops or android phones and tablets to provide drug-related research or information into a virtual supercomputer.
This mega project is named “OpenZika,” which comprises highly-qualified researchers and scientists having expertise in the “Virtual” experiments to dig out quick and trusted treatment for the patients suffering from Zika virus.
The role of the OpenZika virus is vital in the search of the novel molecule for the treatment of Zika virus ailments. The high-tech program will scan the drugs and other investigational molecules in relation to the pattern of Zika protein structures, along with West Nile virus, and Dengue. If any molecule shows productivity in inhibiting the role of the virus, it will be quickly shared with the research community and pharmaceutical industry to validate the calculations.
Rutgers' New Jersey Medical School Rutgers research teaching specialist at Alex Perryman said: "Instead of having to wait a number of years, even decades potentially, to test all these compounds in order to find a few that could form the basis of antiviral drugs to cure Zika, we will perform these initial tests in a matter of months, just by using idle computing power that would otherwise go to waste."
OpenZika mega project Grid is based in Brazil and led by the Federal University of Goiás, and with support from Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz); Rutgers University's New Jersey Medical School; Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California San Diego.
In 2004, IBM developed the World Community Grid to help out the researchers in their research work in minimum timeframe using the supercomputing strategy. The tech platform provides supercomputing facility free of cost on the researchers’ android devices.
IBM’s researcher team is looking for volunteers having a laptop, desktop or any android device for the OpenZika program. Any personnel can join the program without any obligation and cost. The volunteers just have to download and run the program on their Windows, Mac, Linux or android devices
Approximately, there are three million computers and android devices attached to the program, making it one of the largest tech platforms globally. Before the Zika virus program, the grid has also worked on more than 12 projects since its inception with an estimated revenue generation of $500 million.
The majority of people and companies of multiple origins have started working in their idle computer time on the research topic, its notifications, and interacting with the latest information in the Grid.
Many of the researchers working in collaboration with the institutes registered in the OpenZika project are of the opinion that they are getting tons of data from the Grid and it is helping them out to look for multiple options for the cure of the virus.
The role of the supercomputers is vital in the early assessment of tons of data within minutes, whereas on the traditional computers, it will take days and months to study the clinical information.
To maintain the performance of such huge computational grids, researchers are using virtual screening tool known as AutoDock VINA developed by Olson Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute.
Mosquitoes are the main source of transmission in the human population. It is also spreading via sexual contact. In the US, majority cases have been reported as sexually transmitted. Zika virus is also related to the development of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). Both the diseases are chronic and can lead to death.
IBM, COGNITIVE COMPUTING
IBM is playing its vital role in the field of servers and mainframes. The main emphasis of the tech company is in the banking and airline sector. In addition, it is expanding its portfolio in the fields of cybersecurity and cloud.
In 2011, with the tremendous and exceptional success of Watson artificial intelligence program, it beat human players during a game show “Jeopardy.”
Before Watson, IBM AI program “Deep Blue” proved its superiority in 1995 by competing in computing program in every possible way. In the last decade, the tech company has faced a major decline in sales, leading to massive downsizing.
IBM’S ROLE IN MEDICINE
In 2015, the company has made a consortium with Mars Inc. for the improvement of food hygiene, clinical studies on the bacterial, fungi, and multiple types of viruses along with their growth pattern in different environments.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and IBM collaborated on the usage of Watson for medical researchers and physicians to get better access to the pathology and diagnostics of different diseases specifically targeting the oncology portfolio.
Watson is capable of going through millions of MRIs, CT scans, CAT scan images in order to ascertain doctors the right diagnosis in minimum time.
IBM has fierce competition in the cognitive field from Google, Apple, and Facebook. These tech companies have invested hefty amounts in different platforms assisting the healthcare and pharma industry.
The pharmaceutical companies involved in the development of vaccine includes Sanofi SA (NYSE:SNY), Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:INO), GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK). The normal vaccine takes a decade for the development. The companies are working to link the vaccine manufacturing with the dengue and West Nile virus.
IBM’S NEW ACHIEVEMENT
IBM is working very diligently on the future aspect of integrating technical devices with the medical data. This will enhance the ability and exposure of the medical community and will save ample amount of time. In the recent development, IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) based in Singapore in a mutual collaboration developed a macromolecule, which has the properties to fight against the epidemic viral diseases such as Ebola, Zika, dengue, herpes, and multiple types of influenza.
The mode of action of the molecule is divided into three segments, which includes inhibiting the virus to impact its role on health cells and tissues, preventing the replication process of the virus and to increase the immunity system of the individual to be capable of destroying the virus.
Till date in the laboratory, the safety and effectiveness of the magic molecule proved it to be lethal against the Ebola, dengue, and herpes simplex viruses have met its primary endpoints
In addition, the new macromolecule has the ability to compete with the mutations as they occur in the virus with the passage of time.
Mutation of the Zika virus is the main problem that has created hindrance in the development of the vaccine in a short span of time. Both IBM and IBN were working on the Zika virus since its reappearance last year in Brazil. Both companies are now planning to contact with pharmaceutical industry to start clinical studies on humans.
Furthermore, the tech giant is also helping the government to control the viral epidemics via its highly-sophisticated tech platform. The tech company has given citizen engagement and analytics system in Sierra Leone. By virtue of this software, the patients suffering from the Ebola virus can easily communicate their healthcare issues and developments to concerned authorities.
IBM has also provided opinion-based heat maps to identify the outbreaks of the disease helping out the scientists, researchers, and government officials to work out on the specific area of the outbreak.