From the perspective of a wealthy country, malaria is a problem that is solved. It’s like smallpox. We ask, Who gets it? Who cares? Isn’t it better to invest in diabetes?
In truth, malaria is more infectious than ever, endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world’s population and stalling economic development and prosperity.
That’s part of the reason why Timothy A. Springer, PhD, an investigator in the Program in Cellular and Molecular (PCMM) Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Immune Disease Institute (IDI), took on Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. Another is that he likes solving problems in immunology – and has made his name discovering molecules that both promote and fight infections, in part by understanding their structures. …
Imagine you’re a long-suffering biologist, and imagine that the problem is figuring out the three-dimensional shape of a very important molecule. The solution could lead to (a) new insights into disease and potential therapies, and (b) career advancement. What if someone gave you virtually unlimited computer power that could crack the problem you’re trying to solve overnight?
A team at Children’s Hospital Boston has created a super-charged way of solving molecule shapes, harnessing idle scientific computer time across the country and around the world to survey vast reference databases – a “Google Shape” if you will.