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World’s Largest “Virtual Supercomputer”


Program Uses the Power of Personal Computers and Peer-to-Peer Computing to Create World’s Largest “Virtual Supercomputer”
Intel Corporation and leaders of the scientific research community today announced a new philanthropic effort to help combat life-threatening diseases by linking millions of PCs to create the world’s largest and most powerful computing resource.

The philanthropic program employs the connected PC and the power of peer-to-peer technology - using the Internet to share resources such as hard drives and processing power - to significantly increase computing capabilities for researchers.

Joining the Intel® Philanthropic Peer-to-Peer Program are the American Cancer Society, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the University of Oxford and United Devices, Inc. To date, the leading cancer types in Asia Pacific countries are lung cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, mouth and oropharynx cancer. In New Zealand alone, there were 17,460 new cases of cancer registered in 2000, contributing to an overall Asia Pacific total of 3,903,561 new cases.

Under the new program, computer owners have the opportunity to use their personal computing resources to perform scientific research, such as searching for improved treatments and potential cures for cancer and other diseases, by downloading a computer program to their PCs from the Internet. It is projected that the resulting “virtual supercomputer” will ultimately be capable of more than 50 teraflops (trillions of operations per second) of computational power and involve millions of participants, and will be ten times more powerful than today’s highest performing supercomputers.

“Intel and the scientific community are using the PC and the power of peer-to-peer computing technology to dramatically change the way medical research is performed,” said Keith Holtham, Business Development Marketing Manager for Intel Asia Pacific. “By harnessing Internet-connected PCs, this project will enable, what could be, the largest biological computational capability in history to help solve some of the most difficult scientific problems.”
The first peer-to-peer application program - available for download from and developed by United Devices, Inc., in conjunction with the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) and the University of Oxford - involves leukemia drug-optimisation research.

“This project represents a great new way for people to volunteer their PCs’ resources to help fuel groundbreaking ideas and discoveries in research,” said Ed Hubbard, CEO of United Devices. “Internet distributed computing allows scientists and organisations to consider projects previously thought impossible due to resource constraints, including time and money.”

To participate in the research effort, PC owners first download a small computer program from After running the downloaded file, the program is installed on the user’s computer and automatically begins computing; it runs whenever computation resources are available. The program is similar to a “screensaver” that operates during normal computer use, without intervention by the user. Once processing is complete, typically a day later, the program sends the results back to the United Devices' data center and requests a new packet of data the next time the user connects to the Internet. The United Devices program incorporates a comprehensive system of security and privacy technologies to protect user privacy.

“With this significant new resource, cancer research will be dramatically changed,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “Beginning today, scientists will be able to perform research faster than we ever thought possible, and as we move forward, we will work with researchers to help them develop new ways to use this resource. We believe this is an incredible advancement for how medical and cancer research will be conducted.”

As a first step in finding new drugs and a potential cure for leukemia - the No. 1 cause of childhood death by disease - researchers must evaluate the cancer-fighting potential of hundreds of millions of molecules. NFCR scientists estimate that this task will require a minimum 24 million hours of number crunching, which was previously unimaginable. This particular drug-optimisation program evaluates four proteins. One of the four proteins has been identified as critical to the growth of leukemia; and shutting it down may lead to a potential cure.

"This collaborative initiative offers us the capability to save three to five years in the design of anti-cancer drugs, meaning promising medicine will get to the market much quicker," said Dr. Sujuan Ba, science director for the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

"It is incredible that through this coordinated computational power, we will be enabling cancer
patients, cancer survivors and the general public to assist cancer researchers in curing one of the world's deadliest diseases like never before."

The leukemia drug-optimisation programme is the first to be offered on Many more programmes will be developed for research on diseases from Parkinson’s to diabetes. With a variety of programmes, many PC owners should find areas in which they want to be involved.

Intel has been a leader in exploring potential uses of peer-to-peer computing. The company has long used peer-to-peer technology for internal computing requirements. In addition, last August, Intel announced the formation of an industry working group to foster standards and protocols for peer-to-peer computing.

Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. Additional information about Intel is available at

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