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When I first started the UD agent (United Devices), I was very impressed with the idea of distributed computing (DC) (only having heard of SETI, which I thought was a bit silly!). I became a member and was impressed again with the idea of finding a cure for cancer. When I was looking through websites for DC projects, I stumbled across Sengent (www.sengent.com). This is a public company, which, in the light of the September 11th attacks on America, decided to step up the fight against bioterrorism (the use of biological agents, like anthrax or smallpox, in warfare). They thought using a DC project could help find actual drug treatments for such agents, and set about creating one that could do this.

The actual program is called D2OL, which stands for the Drug Design Optimisation Lab and it consists of two components, the engine and the agent. The engine is the main part of it, which always runs in the system tray of a computer. The agent, which can be either open or closed, is the graphical interface. Whilst this is pretty and gives a little information (I might add, not as much information as UDıs Think agent, but its still in beta stages!), itıs quite intensive on CPU power. What I mean by this is, Sengent state that if its open it will take 3 hours to compute one conformer (the different shaped drug molecule), whereas if this window is closed, it will take about 2 hours. At the moment, there are two ³projects², which do, however run together. These are smallpox and anthrax. Both of which, have vaccines, although everybody would have to receive these vaccines, to stop people getting either disease. Sengent are working on an oral drug, which would act as an antitoxin. They have a catalogue of 2 million candidates which they hope to check against the targets, hopefully getting the closest fitting molecule. Once these diseases have been worked on and member numbers have been built up, they hope to work on cures for diseases such as Ebola, the plague and botulism.

The candidate is a drug molecule, which hopefully will have a significant effect on either the smallpox target or the anthrax lethal factor target. The conformers are different shapes of the drug molecule. The Sengent website states that closest fitting molecule (i.e. the candidate or conformer which ³fits² the target (cures it), will win a prize of $25, 000, which is a pretty good incentive. One good thing about D2OL, is that the candidates are cached, unlike the UD agent (unless you have UD Monitor), so there is never really a shortage of candidates to work on. Usually, when online, the D2OL agent will upload results and download new candidates, which is also a useful function. It is however an automatic detection, so you could be waiting for some time. This agent actually needs a progress bar, to say how far the project has been working for, or even a timer, because this isnıt shown anywhere.

The member community (on the message boards) is slowly growing, with new members joining every day. This is a place where new members can find out information about the servers (i.e. downtime) or the software, or just join in on general chitchat. The number of people participating in this project is also growing, with around 3000 members at the time of writing. The agent is still in beta testing, so there may be glitches in the software, but on the whole, this is a very exciting and worthwhile piece of software to have on your computer. Iım glad that Iım in at the start of something, hopefully, promising.

Reviewed by:
Steven Colker
(stecolker@lineone.net)

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