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Computer sharing tackles anthrax

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11:12am, March 18, 2002

A drug-discovery effort using more than a million personal computers worldwide has identified thousands of compounds that could form the basis of a cure for anthrax, researchers at the University of Oxford in England announced March 8.

The anthrax project rested upon a strategy known as distributed computing, in which individuals download a special screensaver to their Internet-connected personal computers that enables the machines to work on assigned calculations during their free time (SN: 3/4/00, p. 152: http://www.sciencenews.org/20000304/bob1.asp). Scientists have turned to distributed computing for data-heavy tasks, such as climate modeling and analyzing radio signals from space for signs of intelligent life. More recently, biologists have embraced the technique for screening troves of compounds as possible drugs for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

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