Lab Canada

World grid project hopes to tap public donations of idle computer time

Armonk, NY – IBM, along with representatives of the world’s leading science, education and philanthropic organizations, today launched World Community Grid, a global humanitarian effort that applies the unused computing power of individual and business computers to help address the world’s most difficult health and societal problems.

World Community Grid will harness the vast and unused computational power of the world’s computers and direct it at research designed to help unlock genetic codes that underlie diseases like AIDS and HIV, Alzheimer’s and cancer, improve forecasting of natural disasters and support studies that can protect the world’s food and water supply.

Anyone can volunteer to donate the idle and unused time on a computer by downloading World Community Grid’s free software and registering at

“World Community Grid represents a new model for philanthropic giving,” says Linda Sanford, IBM senior vice president, Enterprise On Demand Transformation, and chairperson of World Community Grid’s Advisory Board. “IBM is involved in World Community Grid because just as we do for clients, we’re committed to bringing the best technologies forward to address critical societal and health issues. World Community Grid demonstrates that government, business, and society can be the direct beneficiary of innovation if we are willing to rethink the way innovation and science both develop and prosper.”

The first project of World Community Grid, the Human Proteome Folding Project, is sponsored by the Institute for Systems Biology, an internationally known non-profit research institute dedicated to the study and application of systems biology. The Human Proteome Folding Project hopes to identify the proteins that make up the Human Proteome and, in doing so, better understand the causes and potential cures for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

Further projects are to be selected by a newly created World Community Grid Advisory Board that will evaluate proposals from leading research, public and not-for-profit organizations seeking to conduct humanitarian research using grid computing technology. The Board is expected to oversee five to six projects a year.

“World Community Grid will enable researchers around the globe to gather and analyze unprecedented quantities of data to help address important global issues, including public health issues,” said Elaine Gallin, PhD, an advisory board member for the initiative and the program director for medical research at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “I am very pleased to serve as an advisor for this project, which promises to harness grid computer technology to address complex clinical research questions and will inspire us to look beyond the technological limitations that have historically restricted us from addressing some of our most intractable problems.”

The advisory board of World Community Grid includes members of some of the world’s most prestigious scientific, research and charitable organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Markle Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, Oxford University, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme.

IBM has donated the hardware, software, technical services and expertise to build the infrastructure for World Community Grid and provides hosting, maintenance and support. In addition, IBM is joined in the project by United Devices, a leader in grid solutions, which plans to aggregate the idle power of participating PCs and laptops into its existing worldwide grid. IBM and United Devices previously worked together to create the Smallpox Research Grid, which created a grid of more than two million volunteers from 226 countries to speed the analysis of some 35 million drug molecules in the search for a treatment for Smallpox. Results were delivered to the US Department of Defense for further study late last year.

By some estimates, there are more than 650 million PCs in use around the world, each a potential participant in World Community Grid. Grid computing is a rapidly emerging technology that can bring together the collective power of thousands or millions of individual computers to create a giant “virtual” system with massive computational strength. Grid technology provides processing power far in excess of the world’s largest supercomputers.

World Community Grid is built from computing time donated by thousands of IBM employees, as well as scores of PCs and laptops from computer users around the world. World Community Grid is powered by IBM technology, which includes IBM eServer p630 and x345 systems and IBM’s Shark Enterprise Storage Server running IBM DB2 database software and the AIX and Linux operating systems. IBM DB2 software can support millions of SQL queries a day as it manages the data provided by potentially millions of computers working in concert.