University of Melbourne
researchers are now simulating in 3D the motion of the complete human
rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, on Australia’s fastest
supercomputer, paving the way for new drug development.
Rhinovirus infection is linked to about 70%
of all asthma exacerbations with more than 50% of these patients requiring hospitalization.
Furthermore, over 35% of patients with acute chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (COPD) are hospitalized each year due to respiratory viruses including
A new antiviral drug to treat rhinovirus
infections is being developed by Melbourne company Biota Holdings Ltd, targeted
for those with these existing conditions where the common cold is a serious
threat to their health and could prove fatal.
A team of researchers led by Professor
Michael Parker from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI) and the
University of Melbourne is now using information on how the new drug works to
create a 3D simulation of the complete rhinovirus using Australia’s fastest
“Our recently published work with Biota
shows that the drug binds to the shell that surrounds the virus, called the
capsid. But that work doesn’t explain in precise detail how the drug and other
similar acting compounds work,” Professor Parker said.
Professor Parker and his team are working
on the newly installed IBM Blue Gene/Q at the University of Melbourne with
computational biologists from IBM and the Victorian Life Sciences Computation
In production from July 1, 2012, the IBM
Blue Gene/Q is the most powerful supercomputer dedicated to life sciences
research in the Southern Hemisphere and currently ranked the fastest in
“The IBM Blue Gene/Q will provide us with
extraordinary 3D computer simulations of the whole virus in a time frame not
even dreamt of before,” Professor Parker said.
“Supercomputer technology enables us to
delve deeper in the mechanisms at play inside a human cell, particularly how drugs
work at a molecular level.
“This work offers exciting opportunities
for speeding up the discovery and development of new antiviral treatments and
hopefully save many lives around the world,” he said.
Professor Parker said that previously we
have only been able to run smaller simulations on just parts of the virus.
Professor James McCluskey Deputy
Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Melbourne said: “The work on rhinovirus
is an example of how new approaches to treat disease will become possible with
the capacity of the IBM Blue Gene Q, exactly how we hoped this extraordinary
asset would be utilized by the Victorian research community in collaboration
“This is a terrific facility for Victorian
life science researchers, further strengthening Victoria’s reputation as a
leading biotechnology center,” he said.
John Wagner, Manager, IBM Research Collaboratory
for Life Sciences-Melbourne, co located at VLSCI, said these types of
simulations are the way of the future for drug discovery.
“This is the way we do biology in the 21st
Century,” he said.
Source: The University of Melbourne