TGen News & Press Releases : Center for Proteomics

Millions of home computers link together to accelerate the drug discovery process

Phoenix, AZ, October 25, 2005-After just five months of operation, the Pancreatic Cancer Screensaver Lifesaver program has identified two compounds that show promise against pancreatic cancer. The worldwide Screensaver Lifesaver program links together millions of home computers with access to the Internet to help discover new pancreatic cancer drugs by running a special screensaver when it's idle. The Pancreatic Cancer Screensaver program was announced in April 2005 by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) led by Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., Dr. Graham Richards, Chairman of the Oxford University Chemistry Department and Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Director of the NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

"The outcome of this project is absolutely remarkable," said Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., president of the NFCR. "The computing power of the Screensaver program is essential to accelerating the search for new cancer therapies."

The program uses parallel computing power to assess the interactions between small drug-like molecules and predetermined cancer-causing targets, shaving up to three years off the drug discovery process.

The screensaver program includes a drug-design software application that can be downloaded at www.grid.org. Each subscribing computer receives an initial bundle of 100 molecules and a model of a target protein. The program calculates the binding energy between the small molecules and the targets. Typically a day later, after processing is complete, the program sends the results back to a data center and requests more molecules.

The pancreatic program has been running to identify compounds that hit several newly identified protein targets in pancreatic cancer (primarily kinases and phosphatases). After just five months, a total of 917 potential chemical hits were identified and two compounds in particular show promise in fighting pancreatic cancer. The next step is to further perfect these compounds and bring them into a clinical trial as soon as possible.

"This Lifesaver-Screensaver project targeting pancreatic cancer will work to speed the drug development process by at least 3 years, hopefully more," said Dr. Von Hoff, director of TGen's Translational Drug Development Division.

The results from the Pancreatic Cancer Screensaver Lifesaver program will be presented by TGen's Dr. Haiyong Han at an international molecular targets meeting next month in Philadelphia.

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About TGen
The mission of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is to make and translate genomic discoveries into advances in human health. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen is focused on personalized medicine and plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)
Since its founding, the NFCR has spent more than $218 million funding basic science cancer research and prevention education focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous. NFCR is dedicated to funding scientists who are discovering cancer's molecular mysteries and translating these discoveries into therapies that hold the hope for curing cancer. For more information visit www.NFCR.org or call (800) 321-CURE.

About Oxford University
The University of Oxford is internationally renowned for the quality and diversity of its research, with over 3000 academic staff and 3000 postgraduate students working on research. The Chemistry Department at Oxford is the largest in the western world, graduating over 80 PhD scientists each year. The Department boasts a dozen Fellows of the Royal Society, and has produced four Nobel Laureates.

About the Arizona Cancer Center
The Arizona Cancer Center's mission is to prevent and cure cancer through excellence in patient care, research, and education. The Center, directed by David S. Alberts, M.D., is one of a small, prestigious network of comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Comprehensive status is the highest ranking the NCI gives to cancer centers. This special designation means that the center focuses not only on basic science research and clinical (patient-oriented) research, but also on prevention, control, and population sciences.

Media Contacts:
Amy Erickson-TGen (602) 343-8522
Silas Deane-NFCR (301) 654-1250


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