Harvesting compute cycles donated by large numbers of volunteers isn’t new. The Human Proteome Folding Project run on the IBM-supported World Community Grid is one example. Last week, IBM announced it is facilitating a similar project, the Microbiome Immunity Project, which seeks to study the proteome of the bacteria that live inside humans. It’s been known for some time that these bacteria have significant effects on human health.
The Microbiome Immunity Project is a collaboration between the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of California San Diego, and the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute. Using compute cycles donated by the public, the Microbiome will study how the 1-deminsional sequence of amino acids that comprise individual proteins fold into their final 3-dimensional shape. The latter directly influences a protein’s physiological function.
“This type of research on the human microbiome, on this scale, has not been done before,” said Ramnik Xavier, Institute Member and co-director of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; chief, Gastrointestinal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital; and director, Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s only possible with massive computational power.”
However spare supercomputers to handle the enormous workload are hard to come by. “Had World Community Grid not existed, we wouldn’t have even contemplated this project. By harnessing the efforts of volunteers, we can do something that exceeds the scale of what we have access to by a factor of thousands. For the first time, we’re bringing a comprehensive structural biology picture to the whole microbiome, rather than solving structures one at a time in a piecemeal fashion,” according to Rob Knight, professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering and Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego.
This study aims to help scientists better understand the microbiome’s interaction with human biochemistry and determine how that interaction may contribute to autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis—illnesses that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and that are being diagnosed with increasing frequency. The project will begin with the analysis of the microbiome in the digestive system.
Brief video below describes the project:
By way of background, here a brief description of the World Community Grid.
“Since its founding in 2004, World Community Grid has supported 29 research projects in areas such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Zika, clean water, renewable energy and other humanitarian challenges. To date, World Community Grid, hosted by IBM Cloud, has connected researchers to $500 million U.S. dollars’ worth of free supercomputing power. More than 730,000 individuals and 430 institutions from 80 countries have donated more than one million years of computing time from more than three million computers and Android devices. Volunteer participation has helped researchers to identify potential treatments for childhood cancer, more efficient solar cells, and more efficient water filtration.”
Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can join World Community Grid and sign up to support the Microbiome Immunity Project.
Link to release: https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/53025.wss
To learn more about World Community Grid and volunteer to contribute your unused computing power, visit: https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/