Screensaver lifesaver


April 07 Grid Project Ends

On Friday 27 April the Screensaver Project finally came to a close. The project, developed with the National Foundation for Cancer Research has run for six years and has at various times been funded by Intel, Microsoft and by IBM, but was chiefly a collaboration with United Devices Inc of Austin Texas.

It has been an enormous success, involving over 3.5 million personal computers in more than 200 countries. Only the SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] project has had more participants, but none has involved as much data transmission as this research.

The project built a database of billions of small drug-like molecules with known routes to synthesis. These compounds have been screened virtually to see if they might make potent inhibitors of proteins of known crystal structure and biological significance.

The chief targets have been proteins whose blockade might provide a mechanism to counteract cancer, but there were side projects aimed at drug leads against anthrax and against smallpox.

What has been achieved? Firstly on the methodological side, we have shown the viability of the virtual screening approach using a grid of personal computers. This has been adopted by a number of commercial companies.

In terms of actual predicted 'hit' molecules, those we have had synthesized and screened have shown biological activity: up to 10% of the predicted compounds being experimentally active in one specific case, which is high by industry standards. We still have many results to take forward for synthesis and testing and this is being done in collaboration with the National Foundation for Cancer Research. This aspect of the research will continue even though we are not going to be able to run new targets at present.

We would like to thank all the millions of volunteers who have given us their computer time: over 450,000 year's worth of it. Without them the project would have been impossible. With their help we have found novel leads which we hope will be taken forward for development.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone.

Anyone, anywhere with access to a personal computer, could help find a cure for cancer by giving 'screensaver time' from their computers to the world's largest ever computational project, which will screen 3.5 billion molecules for cancer-fighting potential.

The project is being carried out by Oxford University's Centre for Computational Drug Discovery - a unique 'virtual centre' funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), which is based in the Department of Chemistry and linked with international research groups via the worldwide web - in collaboration with United Devices, a US-based distributed computing technology company, and Intel, who are sponsoring the project.

over 3.5 million computers have joined the project

Introduction to Project


Who's Who

Intellectual Property Statement for Cancer Project

Oxford FAQ's

Glossary of Scientific Terms


Computational Chemistry

Protein Chemistry

Results from members



Protein with bound GDP

Figure. A molecule (GDP) in the active site of a protein (shown zoomed in on the active site with a solvent surface covering the protein).

website maintained by Dr. Karl Harrison, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford © Copyright University of Oxford 2001-2007

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