The OpenZika project on World Community Grid aims to identify drug candidates to treat the Zika virus in someone who has been infected. The project will target proteins that the Zika virus likely uses to survive and spread in the body based on what is known from diseases such as dengue virus and yellow fever. In order to develop an anti-Zika drug, researchers need to identify which of millions of chemical compounds might be effective at interfering with these key proteins. The effectiveness of each compound will be tested in virtual experiments, called “docking calculations,” performed on World Community Grid volunteers’ computers and Android devices. These calculations will help researchers focus on the most likely compounds that may eventually lead to an antiviral medicine.
To perform such computational experiments, OpenZika researchers are using a widely used virtual screening tool called AutoDock VINA, developed by the Olson laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, which has also partnered with World Community Grid on two other projects: FightAIDS@Home and GO Fight Against Malaria. Several other World Community Grid projects have also used VINA, including Outsmart Ebola Together, Drug Search for Leishmaniasis and Say No to Schistosoma.
The main goal of the OpenZika project is to screen millions of compounds from existing databases against homology models of Zika protein structures as well as against experimentally determined Zika protein structures, as soon as these are known.
These screening results will all be made publicly available, opening the door for other scientists to also use these data to help develop Zika treatments.